Weekly Columns

The federal government can be difficult to maneuver, and it can be especially frustrating when trying to get help in a hurry. The good news is my staff and I here to help. We have been recognized for outstanding constituent service and routinely help thousands of Arkansans navigate federal agencies to get answers, navigate the bureaucracy and secure needed paperwork.

At this time of year, it’s common for Arkansans planning spring break trips and getting ready for summer vacations to reach out with questions about passports. In recent weeks, the State Department revealed its processing times are taking longer and encouraged travelers to plan much further ahead. 

According to passport officials, routine application services take 8-11 weeks and more than five weeks for expedited processing. Arkansans planning international travel should add a few extra weeks beyond these estimates for mailing and time to enter the application in the system. The State Department has all the forms, fee information and details easily available on its website

There are some situations when folks urgently need to travel abroad or need a foreign visa within a month. Passport Agencies are available to help in these cases. I encourage Arkansans to reach out to my office if they have trouble with this process as appointments book up quickly nationwide during peak travel season.

Many of the requests for assistance we handle annually involve veterans and their families. Sadly, it’s not unusual for our office to get several requests each week related to National Cemetery burials or military honors at a veteran’s gravesite because families don’t have the necessary paperwork to verify their loved one served in uniform. 

My staff and I are honored to help with these requests to obtain official records. However, to help ease the pain during this traumatic time, we encourage veterans and their families to have a copy of the DD Form 214. This can save an enormous amount of stress for a grieving family. It’s easy to make a request online with the National Archives. In addition, veterans can make arrangements before the end of their life with the National Cemetery Administration, which offers pre-need eligibility services

Another issue my office routinely helps address involves taxes, though not always with the IRS. Last year we fielded more than 300 requests from veterans and their families related to state property tax exemptions requiring a Summary of Benefits letter from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). These benefit letters are typically mailed to veterans each January. However, it can get misplaced or individuals may simply be unaware they are needed for property tax filing. Fortunately, my staff is able to help point these inquiries toward the VA, which has greatly improved the accessibility of this document and made it easier to access online.  

Constituent service is an extremely important and often rewarding part of serving as your senator. It's always a pleasure to receive updates from Arkansans who have benefited from our assistance. Can we help you? My staff is just a phone call away and our website is open 24 hours for Arkansans to request support.