For most of the past two months, Congress – like most of the country – has been in lockdown and working remotely to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has presented organizations like the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy with significant challenges in executing our grassroots advocacy strategies, particularly for any objectives related to the fiscal year 2021 appropriations process.
From January through March, the Foundation has been working diligently to advocate with Members of Congress on behalf of our request to have peripheral neuropathy included in the FY21 Defense Appropriations Act as an eligible condition for study under the Department of Defense’s Peer-Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP). This activity included dozens of emailed letters from our grassroots community to House and Senate members, and letters of support from major veterans organizations, as well as many in-person meetings by our Washington, D.C.-based Board President and our government relations consultant. Even as Congress was beginning to shut down and staff began to work remotely, we engaged in a number of conference calls with Senate staff. We are confident that all of this activity has resulted in several Senators submitting our request prior to the April 3 deadline required by the Senate Appropriations Committee for submitting these requests.
Although Congress has been in lockdown for the past two months, it has not refrained from working on its regular agenda – not to mention passing three gigantic COVID-19 relief packages. We understand that the staff of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are working remotely to draft the FY21 appropriations bills, including the FY21 Defense Appropriations Act. This means that staff are considering our request and weighing it against the scores of other similar requests the Committees received for other organizations. For this reason, our advocacy must continue, despite the challenges we face with COVID-19.
What You Can Do
Even though we are well beyond the Senate deadlines for FY21 appropriations requests, you can still contribute to the ongoing effort by contacting your Senators and asking them to update you on the status of our request (for adding Peripheral Neuropathy to DoD PRMRP). Unfortunately, our communication options are very limited because of the current pandemic. Congressional staff are not available for in-person meetings, and phone calls are typically not getting through. The best way to communicate is by email and click here for the contact information you can use.
Because the pandemic has significantly delayed the FY21 appropriations process, we may not know until late in the summer or early fall if the request to have peripheral neuropathy included in the PRMRP has been adopted by the Senate Committee on Appropriations. We should find out when the Committee formally “marks up” the FY21 Defense Appropriations Act and releases it publicly on its website. Until that time, we need both persistence and patience as we continue to advocate for this important request throughout the remainder of this year.