WASHINGTON – Legislation by Congress Garret Graves which would improve electronic services with federal agencies drew unanimous approval the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
“The bipartisan legislation we advanced this week would simplify an important process Americans endure to authorize their elected representatives to step in when FEMA, the Social Security Administration, the IRS, Medicare, the VA and other agencies of the federal bureaucracy aren’t providing the level of customer service citizens deserve,” said Graves, R-South Louisiana.
H.R. 3076, the Creating Advanced Streamlined Electronic Srvices (CASES) Act, passed unanimously out of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Tuesday and is one step closer to becoming law.
Because of a provision in the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. § 552a), members of Congress or their staff obtain written authorization from constituents before beginning work to resolve individuals’ issues with federal agencies, Graves said.
“This authorization is an important security measure, but in practice, it often causes unnecessary delays since people have to first access a printer, print a privacy release form, sign the release form then hand deliver or mail the form back to their representative(s),” he said. “The CASES Act modernizes this core function of congressional offices by giving people the option to electronically authorize their Members of Congress to engage an agency on their behalf.
“It’s amazing that – in a world where nearly all adult Americans use the internet, 75 percent of households have broadband access in their homes and more than 80 percent carry a smartphone – Washington is largely doing its business the same way it did more than a quarter of a century ago,” Graves said.
Casework is a core function of congressional offices, and most of the time when people contact their elected representatives with casework, their problem is urgent – like, “my home flooded, along with all my possession and legal documents; I don’t know where to go or what to do and FEMA is telling me it will be 4 weeks before they can deliver a trailer to my property” kind of urgent.
“After our flood in 2016, our office was available to field the thousands of calls from flood victims in need of help. How do you tell someone who literally just lost everything – including their printers and internet – that the law requires them to print and fax, scan, or mail in a sheet of paper authorizing us to speak to FEMA or any other agency before we could do anything? It was absurd.” Graves continued, “This bill is an example of how Congress is supposed to work: we saw firsthand how a streamlined process would improve service for our constituents, so we introduced CASES to improve government performance.”
CASES integrates modern technology to enhance a necessary process and improve customer service, while maintaining the option of paper submission for those who prefer it. The bill would direct the Office of Management and Budget to develop a streamlined and consistent process across all agencies while ensuring the necessary privacy protections stay intact.
Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) joined Graves as an original co-sponsor of the Creating Advanced Streamlined Electronic Services (CASES) for Constituents Act of 2017.