They came from small towns, big towns, places you’ve never heard of before, and places you dream to visit. Places like North Newton, Kansas, which is home to Bethel College and roughly 1,700 people. And places like New York, New York, home to 8.4 million people, Broadway and Times Square. But they all had one thing in common – arthritis!
On March 14-15, 2016, more than 390 people affected by arthritis traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in our Advocacy Summit.
Advocacy Summit is our annual meeting where we convene people from all over the United States, teach them about issues affecting people who have arthritis and set up meetings for them and their members of Congress. It’s an opportunity for people living with arthritis to tell legislators their arthritis story and ask for support in conquering this disease.
What are the Issues?
This year’s Summit focused on two very important issues.
There is a severe shortage of board certified pediatric rheumatologists in the US. 8 states have none and five only have 1. With an estimated 300,000 kids who have arthritis, finding and getting appropriate care can be challenging. This is why we asked members of Congress to support H.R. 1859, the Ensuring Children’s Access to Specialty Care Act of 2015. If enacted, this bill will address the shortage by making pediatric subspecialists eligible for a loan forgiveness program in exchange for practicing in underserved areas.
The prevalence of arthritis among U.S. Military personnel and veterans is alarmingly higher than the general population. 1 in 3 veterans has arthritis as compared to 1 in 5 of the general population. Yet there is no dedicated funding within the Department of Defense (DoD) for arthritis research. This is why we are asking Congress to help our military members, the same people who risk their lives to protect our freedom, by establishing a dedicated, $20 million DoD fund for arthritis research.
We also asked members of Congress to join our Congressional Arthritis Caucus. Composed of members from both the House of Representatives and the Senate, this group works to educate their fellow lawmakers about arthritis and advocate on behalf of legislation that will help those living with the disease.
Our Advocacy Summit Results
It’s been almost one month since our 390 Summit attendees met with Congress and the results are good.
As a direct result of our Summit activities, we have secured 7 new co-sponsors of H.R. 1859, bringing the total number of sponsors up to 45. Thank you to these legislators who are now supporting the bill: Rep. Don Young (AK); Rep. Mike Capuano (MA); Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ); Rep. Walter Jones (NC); Rep. Tim Ryan (OH); Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (CA); and Rep. Chris Smith (NJ).
We also secured 45 total signers of a letter supporting establishment of dedicated DoD arthritis research fund. Thank you to these legislators for signing the letter: Rep. Anna Eshoo (CA); Rep. David McKinley (WV); Rep. Andy Barr (KY); Rep. Joyce Beatty (OH); Rep. Dan Benishek (MI); Rep. Donald Beyer (VA); Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR); Rep. Michael Capuano (MA); Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX); Rep. Chris Collins (NY); Rep. Barbara Comstock (VA); Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (MI); Rep. Rick Crawford (AR); Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD); Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR); Rep. Debbie Dingell (MI); Rep. Eliot Engel (NY); Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (PA); Rep. Chris Gibson (NY); Rep. Gene Green (TX); Rep. Jim Himes (CT); Rep. Ruben Hinjosa (TX); Rep. Robin Kelly (IL); Rep. Peter King (NY); Rep. Rick Larsen (WA); Rep. Ted Lieu (CA); Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA); Rep. Patrick Murphy (FL); Rep. Mark Pocan (WI); Rep. Charles Rangel (NY); Rep. Dave Reichert (WA); Del. Gregorio K. C. Sablan (MP); Rep. Loretta Sanchez (CA); Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL); Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA); Rep. Niki Tsongas (MA); Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD); Rep. Tim Walz (MN); Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ); Rep. Kathleen Rice (NY); Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (WI); Rep. John Katko (NY); Rep. Janice Hahn (CA); Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA); and Rep. G. K. Butterfield (NC).
We are also pleased to welcome 8 new members to the Congressional Arthritis Caucus, bringing total membership up to 138. We extend a heartfelt welcome to these new members: Rep. Gene Green (TX); Rep. Ryan Zinke (NY); Rep. Joyce Beatty (OH); Rep. John Duncan (TN); Rep. Ted Yoho (FL); Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR); Sen. Jon Tester (MT); and Rep. Rob Bishop (UT).
Plans are already underway for the 2017 Advocacy Summit. Stay tuned for more information and, until then, click here to learn more about our Advocate program.
- Nearly 400 Advocates Arrive in D.C. for 2016 Arthritis Foundation Advocacy Summit
- Finding Their Voices: Advocates Prepare for Meetings on the Hill
- Empowered Advocates of All Ages Share Their Stories at the Advocacy Summit