It’s common to hear from Arkansans all over the state about their friends and family members in need of help regarding a problem with a federal government agency. Issues such as securing emergency passports for a family to attend an overseas wedding, obtaining a grave marker to honor a WWII veteran or ensuring a small business gets paid for its government contracted work all represent the type of outreach my office receives over the course of a year. I’m proud of the work my staff provides in getting questions answered and resolving these impasses for constituents.
2022 was a record year in my office. In addition to thousands of calls, letters and emails we fielded concerning legislative issues, we heard from more than 3,800 Arkansans who needed direct help on matters involving the U.S. government – 50 percent more than just a few short years ago 2019.
Many of the problems were related to COVID-19 backlogs that continue to plague the federal programs so many rely on.
Annually, the IRS is one of the top agencies Arkansans request help with, usually due to unacceptable processing times for tax returns and terrible customer service. More than 300 Natural State residents requested assistance this year, and we were able to make a difference.
Just weeks ago we learned one Arkansan would be getting a refund check worth more than $31,000. Reports like that are good to hear, and while we were able to help many people obtain overdue refunds or overcome problems with identity theft, too many taxpayers are still waiting for basic services from the agency. These issues are why I will continue pushing to spur change and accountability.
We were also able to help right wrongs made by unfortunate agency mistakes. Several involved Arkansans who were mistakenly reported as deceased, resulting in their monthly benefits being cancelled.
One Social Security recipient found her monthly check fraudulently re-routed to a different bank account. The agency re-issued her check, but then mistakenly took the money back thinking she had been overpaid. Fortunately, we were able to shine a light on this case and help correct the costly error. Another incident impacted a widow’s VA benefits after department personnel delayed updating her paperwork. After our intervention, the agency discovered the misstep, restored her full benefits and sent back pay.
One of my most important duties as a U.S. Senator is to be a voice for the people of Arkansas when they’re dealing with the federal government.
In addition to that being an important responsibility, learning of the difficulties our family, friends and neighbors face also helps me understand where resources are needed and what federal agencies need reform. This outreach helps bring important systemic problems to light and, ideally, prompts more permanent solutions.
I am blessed with a tremendous team working in my offices in Arkansas and Washington, D.C. that shares my dedication to our state, has experience navigating these situations and never stops using the tools and resources available to us for good.I look forward to the calls, visits and emails in 2023 as we continue working to make a difference for Arkansans.