The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up  Green editions icon Green editions


HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.

Published: Tuesday, June 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
In Our View: When public service works

Citizens changing the law

The Washington Legislature is a slow-motion train wreck (when the second special session is called Wednesday, prepare for competitive bloviating.) Congress redefined partisan gridlock. Politics is code for "I'm-mad-as-hell" inertia.
And yet there are times when ordinary citizens do extraordinary things. A letter, a call, a meeting with a lawmaker can shape the political landscape. Not paid lobbyists, but public citizens angry over an injustice or aiming, David-and-Goliath-like, to steer policy towards the common good.
Consider Shirin Lane, a soon-to-retire Air Force member from Clinton. Earlier this year, Lane wrote Rep. Rick Larsen to request assistance with her disability rating.
A fibromyalgia diagnosis didn't align with standard VA medical assessments. According to the Mayo Clinic's website, fibromyalgia involves widespread musculoskeletal pain. The disease magnifies agonizing sensations by distorting how a patient's brain processes nerve signals. For Lane, getting hit with a lower disability rating translates into fewer services and benefits from the Department of Veteran Affairs.
The solution involved statutory housekeeping, ensuring that the VA updates its "Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities" criteria. The criteria had not kept up with established medical standards. This applies not only to fibromyalgia, but a range of disorders.
Herein lies the birth of a new veterans' health care policy. One citizen, one lawmaker.
Larsen drafted language that was attached to the VA funding bill. The bill passed the House last week by a 421-4 vote.
"Shirin spoke up, and I listened," Larsen said in a statement. "Health care and benefits for veterans should be determined based on the best medical information available. Thanks to Shirin, they will be."
"I am really grateful to Congressman Larsen and his staff who worked so hard and so quickly to fix this," Lane said. "Even if this policy doesn't affect me, I'm grateful that it will help veterans who come after me."
Here's the money line: "If this Air Force veteran had not told me about her challenge, Congress would not have addressed this problem as quickly as we have," Larsen said.
Lawmakers share similar stories. Citizens make a tangible difference when they speak common sense to power. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is a celebrated example. One court case, one long-term fix.
Thankfully, not every administrative roadblock requires fiddling with the law. Citizens knocking heads with federal agencies can contact their member of Congress. There are case workers to help navigate the bureaucracy.
It's the non-bloviating part of public service.

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.


Herald Editorial Board

Jon Bauer, Opinion Editor:

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer:

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor:

Josh O'Connor, Publisher:

Have your say

Feel strongly about something? Share it with the community by writing a letter to the editor. Send letters by e-mail to, by fax to 425-339-3458 or mail to The Herald - Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We'll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 250 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it. If your letter is published, please wait 30 days before submitting another. Have a question about letters? Contact Carol MacPherson at or 425-339-3472.

HeraldNet Classifieds