WATERLOO, IA – Tom Powers wants you to get involved with legislative advocacy, but he knows that not everyone has the time. “It’s very true, and I understand that lack of time,” says Powers, now semi-retired after 12 years in the government relations arena with the VGM Group. “That’s kind of why I’m here, because I want to know your struggles as a DME owner. I want to be the advocate to take those concerns to Washington, DC, or to our state legislators, and advocate on your behalf so you can stay home, take care of patients, and run your business.”
The “semi” in retired is a necessary caveat, because Powers still does advocacy work with VGM. As a Navy veteran (six years), Vietnam War vet, and firefighter in Waterloo, Iowa for 29 years, Powers came to the work through a chance meeting with Van G. Miller, founder of the VGM Group.
“When I got out of the Navy, I worked in a garage fixing cars—and no, I didn’t work on Van’s cars,” Powers explains with a chuckle. “Van had a DME nearby in Waterloo, so I got to know him a bit that way.”
The friendship strengthened over the years, to the point where Van believed Powers would be able to wield a strong voice in the halls of power.
“Firefighters are pretty politically active, not only in their communities, but in the state level governments and also federal government,” Powers says. “I was very connected with some of our policy makers in Iowa, and Van Miller thought it would be a good idea for me to come on over and help out if I could at VGM.”
Powers did precisely that for a dozen years, and these days he picks and chooses his legislative battles. Many lawmakers appreciate the value of DME services, but Powers agrees that much work must still be done. “Most legislators understand the service that DME providers perform,” he says. “However, they don’t understand all the challenges of a small business. They don’t understand the challenges of the paperwork and the documentation.”