Weekly Columns

Helping Arkansans with problems they have with federal agencies is a top priority for me. When Natural State residents call for help navigating the federal bureaucracy, my staff and I are here to assist however we can. 

In 2019, my office received more than 2,500 new requests for help with federal agencies, including assisting 44 Arkansans with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), 223 problems with veterans’ disability claims and 26 issues with the U.S. Postal Service. While the need for help is steady each year, knowing about these problems gives me a better idea of what is working and not working in the federal government. 

Over the last 12 months, more constituents asked me for help with military records and medals than any other issue. Although this is usually a top request, it accounted for more than 25 percent of the requests for assistance I received. It is not surprising that veterans and their families need help with these issues. It can be overwhelming to try to track down documents that could be at one of several different repositories or to reconstruct files that were destroyed in a 1970s fire. We also get many last-minute requests from families and funeral homes when they need documents to provide proper honors at a funeral or proof of eligibility for burial in a National Cemetery. This is important work and I am pleased that my office has developed expertise with these issues.  

Notable among this year’s casework achievements was obtaining the 70-year-old medals of WWII and Korean War veteran Thomas Vaughns. The 99-year-old served with the Tuskegee Airmen and spent his life in service to others, earning several medals for his dedication to our country. I was honored to present these medals to him during a ceremony at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Mr. Vaughns is a tremendous example of the spirit of our Greatest Generation. 

Other challenging requests my office received included a number of international and immigration issues. The paperwork and processes involved in immigration, visas and passports often require specialized help. In 2019, we assisted with 99 problems involving U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and 97 with the State Department. These included a Northwest Arkansas woman whose citizenship paperwork was lost in the 1980s and a missionary family whose international adoption was hindered by civil unrest in Haiti. I was pleased that assistance from my office led to immigration officials digging further to finally verify that citizenship and allowed the family to bring their child to the U.S. for the first time. 

I often hear from Arkansans who spent considerable time trying to get answers from federal agencies. While I can’t make the decisions, we’re here to make sure these problems are examined by the right people. I am proud of the work my office does to help Arkansans each day and I look forward to continuing this important mission in 2020.