Boozman Column: Ensuring Federal Agencies are Accessible, Accountable to Arkansans

As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I’ve delivered improvements to benefits and services for Arkansas veterans. Crafting policies and approving legislation is one way to fulfill the promise made to the men and women who served in our nation’s uniform. Just as importantly is cutting through red tape and breaking down hurdles blocking access to the critical care and services Congress authorized the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide.

The importance of this role was clear during a recent visit to Malvern-based Covenant Health Urgent Care. The clinic aimed to expand urgent care services to eligible veterans, but the staff ran into some barriers to achieving this goal. Delays in the approval process forced the medical center staff to send veterans further away from home to seek care for minor injuries and illnesses. When my team and I heard about the challenges the clinic was experiencing, we stepped in to help speed up the process so it could provide veterans care through the VA’s Community Care Network.

I’m pleased my staff and I were able to help resolve this issue and so many other problems Arkansans experience with federal agencies.

Many U.S. government offices and departments are still struggling with backlogs and policy changes resulting from modifications made in the early days and weeks of the pandemic. Since January, my office has received more than 100 requests for help with veteran’s disability claims, fueled by substantial delays at all levels of that process. We are starting to see improvements with agency employees returning to in-person work, but there’s still a long way to go to ensure veterans receive timely decisions.

My office has also been inundated with requests from Arkansans who are frustrated with significant lags and poor customer service from the IRS. While the agency has pressed for more funding to support additional staff, the solution is to prioritize the needs of taxpayers over other activities like representational work. As a result of feedback from Arkansas taxpayers, I helped introduce the IRS Service Improvement Act, legislation requiring IRS employees to focus on meeting their obligations to customers instead of using their time on the clock for union work.

Other federal agencies have made major improvements. There is finally good news for people hoping to travel internationally this summer. The U.S. Passport Service has overcome the backlog that plagued the agency in 2020 and 2021. Although applications still take longer to process than before the pandemic, Arkansans are getting their passports for vacations, education exchanges and business travel with a little extra lead time.

Constituent service is an important oversight function of Congress. By assisting Arkansans with these federal agencies, I truly understand what is and is not working at the federal level so I can pursue changes to broken systems and help people work through very large bureaucracies. I appreciate knowing what challenges you face and providing information and assistance to help make these complicated processes less cumbersome.

My office has been recognized for our commitment to serving Arkansans. As the Congressional Management Foundation’s inaugural Democracy Award  for Constituent Service winner, we were thrilled to claim the title of “the best public servant” for our constituents. I look forward to continuing to serve Arkansans and helping overcome the roadblocks to federal services. Let my staff and I help you.

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