Weekly Columns

Helping You Navigate the Bureaucracy

Senator John Boozman's Column for the Week of April 11, 2011

Apr 11 2011

While we address the very important challenges we face as a nation: our economy, high unemployment and excessive federal spending, we cannot neglect what is perhaps our most important responsibility as public servants, helping our constituents.

I learned quickly during my tenure in the House of Representatives that if used properly, the power of the office truly can change lives for the better.  When I was first elected to Congress as a member of the House in 2001, former Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt, who represented the Third District of Arkansas for 26 years, gave me some excellent advice.  He said: “John, always remember, now that the election is over, there are no more Republicans, no more Democrats, only the people of Arkansas and you need to take care of them.” 

That is just as true now as it was then.

John Paul was a consummate public servant.  He taught me that constituent service must always come first.  That is the key to good governing and good public service.  Nobody embodied that more than John Paul. 

No matter what major legislative crisis we are facing, our goal is to make each constituent who is having trouble with a federal agency a priority.  In some cases, we are the last resort to overcoming a major obstacle and we work to give each and every case that comes before us our attention.

I have a great staff that works to help navigate the often-confusing federal agencies.  These staffers act as a liaison; working to resolve issues affecting Arkansans such as social security or Medicare paperwork glitches, passport problems or tax matters.

While I cannot override the decisions made by a federal agency, I can often intervene to answer questions, find solutions, or just cut through the red tape.  I encourage you to reach out to my office if you need assistance with a problem you are having with a federal agency.  

For example, our veterans who return home from Afghanistan or Iraq often encounter difficulty obtaining the benefits they earned.  In these cases, a Senate office can be a huge resource.  That’s what helped my grandfather when he returned home at the end of WWI.  After surviving being gassed, his lungs didn’t function properly and he reached out to my great, great uncle, then-Senator James Davis to help him with his disability.

That personal story has helped me remember my first priority—constituent service—just as the continued guidance from John Paul does.  It is all reinforced when I look at the desk I work from on the Senate floor.  That desk, from which I delivered my maiden speech, does not belong to me personally rather it belongs to the American people.  And my name, carved-in that desk, will always remind me that I am here to serve the people who elected me.