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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Day 3 of Overseas Americans Week

It's already Wednesday - Day 3 of Overseas American Week here in Washington, D.C. - and my feet are tired and my brain is fried.

We had a full day of back-to-back meetings yesterday and this morning was filled with one that was every bit as good as the meeting with the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service.

But before we talk about that meeting, let me explain a bit about what exactly we are doing here in D.C.  Overseas Americans Week sounds grand but what does mean?

Meetings.  Lots and lots of meeting.  The AARO/FAWCO delegation is talking with the staffs of U.S. lawmakers, the Congressmen and women who make the laws that impact us, and with different government agencies like the IRS, the folks who implement them.

With the staff meetings we have a very brief window (about 20-30 minutes) to make our points so we have to be clear and concise.  And then it's off to the next meeting to do it again.  Believe me, after walking from floor to floor, not to mention from one building to another, my feet were about to fall off at the end of the day.  Our meetings are with the staff but a few times we've met their bosses as well.  Just before one meeting Congressman Steny Hoyer, the House Democratic Whip was walking through the office and when he saw us he stopped to talk and to shake our hands.

Sometimes we go to these meetings wearing two hats:  an AARO/FAWCO member and a constituent of that lawmaker.  I have already met with the staff of my representative in Seattle, Jim McDermott, and will be meeting with the staff of one of my senators later in the week.

The meetings with the agencies are longer and it's more of an exchange - there is more time to go into detail and ask each other questions.  I already talked about the meeting with TAS but this morning we met with people at the State Department responsible for overseas citizens services.  

Everywhere we go we are talking about what's happening right now to Americans abroad.  One observation I would make is that, with very few exceptions, when we talk about banking discrimination, people start nodding their heads.  Some of their information has come from media reports, but also from constituents abroad.  I found that encouraging - they are reading their mail from abroad.  So if you were wondering (as I was) if it really is worth sending them a note (and struggling with their websites), the answer is "yes" because I have seen firsthand that it does help.  A lot.  When we start talking and they can connect the issue to something that came in from a constituent(s), it make a world of difference in how they view that information.

So that's what it's all about, folks.

One last word before Ellen and I have dinner.  In one meeting I was asked point blank if I was planning to renounce.  And I was filled with so much anger.  I will do everything I can, I replied, so that day never comes.  I will send letters, I will knock on doors, I will write, I will do whatever I have to including annoying the hell out of people like you until I've exhausted all possibilities.

And then we'll see.


P. Moore said...

Looks like one big action packed week. I am sure you are learning many things, both good and otherwise and I hope you and your group are having some impact.

BTW, your response to the question regarding renouncing was PERFECT!!

Daniel Kuettel said...

Keep up the good work! Next time, ask them why they haven't renounced already!

Anonymous said...

Great description.

The anger: Did you feel the anger because of anger to the whole situation we've known over the years? (what you know your country is doing to us, and that it is not accidental but it is planned)

Did it come because you felt that the questioner was delivering you a load of spite? Was it a taunting?

Your response is similar to my response. Did you feel the anger because it was you have been forced to keep yourself from being renounced by your country?

from Scandinoovia

Victoria FERAUGE said...

I'll give you a little more context here. Here I am having travelled a few thousand miles to hang out in a city I don't much care for to walk the halls until my feet ache and my hips hurting from the cancer meds and to talk, talk, talk and I'm being asked if I am going to renounce?

Buddy, if I was planning to do that ASAP I sure as hell wouldn't be here, right? :-)

In all fairness he was just curious and it was a legitimate question and he surely didn't mean to set me off. And I didn't yell or anything like that - just got very passionate in my answer.

Have to admit, though, that it is really REALLY hard to stay measured and reasonable meeting after meeting. So there is some of that too. A little like a pressure cooker and 99.9% of the time I can keep the steam from escaping but just this once a little of it escaped.

bubblebustin said...

My sincerest thanks to you and your delegation for your tireless efforts in getting our voices from abroad heard in Washington.

I think my answer to the rather insensitive question as to whether you plan to renounce would have been: Do you plan to continue to make laws that force me to?

DL NELSON said...

Thanks for doing what you're doing.

I find whenever expats are together these days the question of renouncing comes up. The choices go back to the US or not be able to bank in your chosen country of residence.That doesn't begin to cover the double taxation issue.

Not pretty and frankly I'm still emotional and angry about the choice which is why I'm talking to every reporter I can find on the situation.

Stay strong...we need you

AtticusinCanada said...

It would be nice if they knew that for some of us who had already been writing to them with no response at all it was too late. We couldn't wait to see and had to renounce in order to live normally with our family abroad. I held out for two years. Wrote letters, got zero response, waited through Ms. Olsens' reports to congress and she never got any response. Meanwhile dealing with a spouse wondering why I am waiting so long as this affects our whole family and not just me the lone U.S. person. I renounced but, it was with bitterness that I had to do so and be placed in such a situation. I just like them to know that some tried to wait and could wait no more. Their inaction to solve the problems for innocent expat families has caused some to HAVE to do this. It's something I likely will not ever forgive or forget. They may be reading the letters people write them but, I have never had a response in two years of reaching out.

Anonymous said...

The AARO folks who lead these discussions/interviews/meetings are truly tops. They have their message, and they can get it across, even if it has to happen in just 10 minutes. The listeners (staffers) are usually very attentive.

All I can say is that these door-knockers have a professionalism that I have witnessed first-hand. Even as volunteers, because that's what they are, they are doing excellent service for overseas Americans. We owe them a debt of gratitude, if nothing more.

John D.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@bubblebustin - Now THAT is a gream comback. wish I'd throught of it. We did manage to reach a lot of people and had some fascinating conversations. I will do a Flophouse post about what I learned as soon as I get back home. I think I need the weekend to process first...

@DL Nelson - What was interesting is that most of the time we weren't the one bringing up the renunciations - the folks we were talking to ASKED. And I have to say that it is raising a lot of concern here - more than I had imagined. Keep talking to those reporters!

@Atticus - everwhere I went I stressed that the people who renounced really did so because they felt they had no choice. I saw people wincing when we went through some of the stories. I will write more about that when I get home.

@John, It was an education for me. I watched the experienced ones work and was really impressed. And I agree that the staffer do listen. All nice folks (a few exceptions).

bubblebustin said...

Take as long as you need to recharge yourself - we'll be here when you do. Looking forward to the savoury details :-)

AtticusinCanada said...

I'm glad they winced. So did I. Seems like an acceptable risk to them, it wasn't to me and unless someone speaks up for us then all the wincing in the world cannot make up for it. Yes, I'm bitter at those who have the power to at least make some amendment or at least speak up to try and will not do so because of political positioning. It's really not my country anymore. Being able to keep your citizenship is just a set of circumstances and it depends on where you are in the lottery and that is all it depends on.