Ensuring federal agencies are accessible and accountable |

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As a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, I made improvements to benefits and services for Arkansas veterans. Developing policies and passing laws is one way to deliver on the promise made to the men and women who have served in our nation’s uniform. Equally important is cutting red tape and removing barriers blocking access to critical care and services that Congress has authorized the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide.

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

I am delighted that my staff and I were able to help resolve this and so many other issues Arkansian has with federal agencies.

Many U.S. government offices and departments are still grappling with backlogs and policy shifts resulting from changes made in the early days and weeks of the pandemic. Since January, my office has received more than 100 requests for assistance with veterans’ disability claims, fueled by significant delays at all levels of this process. We’re starting to see improvements with agency employees returning to work in person, 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 the long delays and poor customer service from the IRS. Although the agency has requested more funding to support additional staff, the solution is to prioritize the needs of taxpayers over other activities like representation work. Following feedback from Arkansas taxpayers, I helped introduce the IRS Service Improvement Act, a law requiring IRS employees to focus on meeting their obligations to clients at the instead of using their time for union work.

Other federal agencies have made major improvements. There’s finally some good news for people hoping to travel overseas this summer. The US Passport Service overcame the backlog that plagued the agency in 2020 and 2021. Although applications are still taking longer to process than before the pandemic, Arkansans are getting their passports for vacations, educational exchanges and business trips with a little extra time.

The constituent service is an important oversight function of Congress. By helping Arkansans with these federal agencies, I really understand what works and what doesn’t at the federal level so that I can pursue changes to broken systems and help people work through very large bureaucracies. I appreciate hearing about the challenges you face and providing information and assistance to help make these complicated processes less tedious.

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

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