Malvern Daily Record

Ensuring federal agencies are accessible, accountabl­e to Arkansans

- Sen. John Boozman

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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