What is AOTA?
The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) is the only national association dedicated solely to the occupational therapy profession. AOTA membership benefits include a variety of advocacy-related services.
AOTA aims to advance occupational therapy practice, education, and research through standard-setting and advocacy on behalf of its members, the profession, and the public. Because of this, they are a vital part of the preservation and advancement of occupational therapy. Their resources can help you be the ultimate OT Advocate.
I acknowledge that an AOTA Membership can seem expensive when you view it as a one-time purchase. However, if you think about it as a 12-month annual investment in your career, it becomes more manageable. Our membership supports all of AOTA’s employees and services that I have outlined below. AOTA is the kind of membership that keeps on giving 365 days a year.
1. Engage in Leadership Opportunities
AOTA offers various opportunities to get involved through AOTA fieldwork opportunities, Board Positions, Special Interest Sections, the Volunteer Leadership Development Committee (VLDC), and the Representative Assembly (RA). These positions are open to practitioners of all experience levels, including students! So, what are you waiting for?
Taking advantage of these opportunities is our responsibility to gain experiences and support the growth of our profession. Many of these positions are open to students and new graduates. So, take a chance! You never know what you might achieve. Additionally, it is a stellar way to network with other professionals. Although it can be intimidating, you will never regret putting your name in the hat. Serving in a leadership position can help you optimize your AOTA membership benefits.
2. Advocacy on the Federal Level
The Federal Affairs Team is responsible for lobbying Congress and other government bodies on behalf of occupational therapy. They are a vital part of our advocacy efforts and keep us informed of what bills are currently in Congress. They monitor all legislation introduced and look for opportunities to include occupational therapy, and search for any issues related to funding, licensure, or scope of practice. Additionally, they are charged with building relationships with legislators and their staff to advocate for occupational therapy.
Secondly, they provide extensive educational resources for practitioners. We rely on AOTA to sort through the hundreds of bills and notify us of concerns. I then also count on them to write about those bills in a way that is important to me. The resources they provide help us be effective advocates. I know I don’t have time to read through all of the legislation and understand what it means for OT. So, I’m happy to have them supporting me.
3. American Occupational Therapy Political Action Committee (AOTPAC)
AOTPAC is the American Occupational Therapy Political Action Committee. AOTPAC is a necessary political action arm for AOTA that supports AOTA’s legislative and political agenda by supporting candidates for election to U.S. House and Senate. It can also provide opportunities for our lobbyists and OT advocates to attend fundraising events in support of candidates for federal office.
Additionally, they support AOTA practitioners and students members who are running for office as allowed by law. For those looking to get more involved, you can be an ATOPAC Ambassador. The role of an AOTPAC Ambassador is to build relationships with Legislators in their state and educate others about the role and value of AOTPAC.
AOTPAC is in an important tool for advocacy efforts. Although it is listed as one of the AOTA member benefits, none of the membership dues go towards AOTPAC. All of AOTPAC’s funds are collected through separate contributions from AOTA members. AOTPAC can only solicit funds from AOTA members. Additionally, contributions to AOTPAC are publicly available at opensecrets.org. If you have any questions about being an AOTPAC Ambassador or AOTPAC in general, send an email to AOTPAC@aota.org.
4. Advocacy for Fair Coverage and Payment of OT
Did you know that AOTA has an entire team dedicated solely to regulation? AOTA’s Regulatory Team is comprised of experts who interpret payment reforms, regulation, and agency guidance. Additionally, they advocate for fair coverage and payment policies for public and private payers. Similar to the Federal Affairs Team, they issue numerous educational materials.
Without the regulatory team, we wouldn’t have resources on CPT codes, PDGM, PDPM, or any other policies. In addition to regulation, they provide support to the Federal Affairs Team. Together, they develop strategies for addressing legislation—both teams are crucial for effectively advocating for occupational therapy.
5. Advocacy on the State Level
Similar to the Federal Affairs Team, the State Affairs Team advocates for issues on the state level. They focus particularly on Medicaid, licensure, our scope of practice, OTA supervision, etc. They monitor all legislation and regulation related to occupational therapy practice. This can include Medicaid expansion, infringements on our scope of practice, and any issues that would impact our license.
They also serve as vital support for state associations. They help states advocate for and against legislation and regulation impacting occupational therapy. The state legislature determines our scope of practice, OTA supervision, continuing competency requirements, and licensure. So, having a team that supports states specifically is vital in sustaining the profession.
Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact
AOTA and NBCOT collaborated on the OT Licensure Compact initiative. The OT licensure compact was first introduced into state legislatures in 2021. Once enacted in 10 states, the initial states can formally establish the OT compact. The purpose of the compact is to increase licensure portability for occupational therapy practitioners. Physical therapy already has a compact.
6. National Conference Support
Did you know that AOTA hosts our national conference? Having an AOTA membership provides a discount on registration fees for these conferences. Additionally, these conferences provide an important opportunity for practitioners and students to gather from around the globe. AOTA hosts several conferences, including:
- Annual Conference
- Student Conclave
- Education Summit
- Children and Youth Specialty Conference
- PDGM Conference & PDPM Conference
- Numerous events for specialty months and days impacting OT (i.e., OT month, backpack day, etc.)
AOTA would not be able to afford to host these events if it wasn’t for membership. To make these conferences successful, AOTA’s full-time employees plan and put together these events. Additionally, your membership helps support the upfront costs of reserving a space which is often done many years in advance.
7. Commitment to OT as a Profession
Even if you only pay for membership without taking advantage of the extras, you are still making a vital investment in occupational therapy. The national and state associations ensure the profession of occupational therapy is respected and prevalent. Your membership allows AOTA to pay their employees and fund efforts to advance OT. When you spent a lot of time and money to be an OT practitioner, shouldn’t you do whatever you can to make sure OT is here to stay? Being a member is a crucial part of that plan. Therefore, consider your membership as an ongoing investment in yourself and this profession.
8. Professional Standards
AOTA establishes professional standards for occupational therapy. The AOTA Code of Ethics, Continuing Education, OT Practice Framework, and others are prime examples of how AOTA sets the bar for OT practice. Although it seems unnecessary, having a set of standards is a critical part of being a respected part of the medical community. One of the reasons occupational therapy is a licensed medical profession is because we have national standards. Without these standards, the world of OT would be scattered and inconsistent.
Occupational therapy wasn’t licensed in all 50 states until around the 1980s. AOTA’s State Affairs Teams works diligently to protect licensing in all 50 states. Our license brings us a lot of respect in the medical field and is often a condition of reimbursement. Licensure requirements and availability are determined by state legislatures. While the state associations also track this information, I can attest that the state associations heavily rely on AOTA’s support any time licensure is threatened.
They have also been working hard on the licensure compact, which has been introduced in many states. The ability to easily become licensed in numerous states will be amazing for those living on state lines and who engage in travel or telehealth therapy.
And last but not least, AOTA membership benefits include CommunOT. CommunOT is AOTA’s community platform for members to engage in discussions with each other about various issues. It’s a great place to network and brainstorm treatment ideas with other practitioners and students. To streamline your feed, you can select specific special interest sections and receive daily or weekly email updates. Therefore, you receive information that is interesting to you and helpful to your practice.
Most importantly, CommunOT is a great way to hear from AOTA staff. Information from AOTA is more likely to be accurate and timely. As a bonus, CommunOT is a great way for AOTA staff and SIS Committees to hear about the issues practitioners face. So, I encourage you to participate in CommunOT or peruse the conversations from time to time. You never know what you might learn.
How I Take Advantage of AOTA Membership Benefits
AOTA membership means more to me than my annual dues. In 2017, I completed a Level II Fieldwork with AOTA’s Federal Affairs Team. Because of that experience, I gained valuable insight into all of the amazing AOTA membership benefits.
AOTA provides me with opportunities to engage in leadership and educational opportunities to jumpstart my career as an OT advocate. Initially, I was an AOTA member because my school required it. However, now I choose to be a member because it is vital for my profession and education. AOTA will make you an informed OT practitioner and advocate if used to its full potential.
In conclusion, being an AOTA Member provides us with some amazing opportunities to engage in various advocacy opportunities. It is easy to find a way for AOTA to fit in your life due to many opportunities. I love that with the help of my membership, AOTA can provide valuable resources for me to use in my practice and valuable analysis of federal and state legislation and regulation that impacts my daily life.
So, what are you waiting for? Join AOTA today! It’s easy, and they’re ready to support you and your practice.
To support Amplify OT, use our referral link to sign up for AOTA .