Walters pushes federal government to use modern technology to help constituents

Legislation that would make it easier for members of Congress to work directly with federal agencies on behalf of their constituents’ drew support from U.S. Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) on Tuesday.

Currently, constituents have to sign printed casework authorization forms in order for a representative to work with a federal agency on their behalf. U.S. Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced the Creating Advanced Streamlined Electronic Services (CASES) for Constituents Act of 2017, H.R. 3076, in June to allow for electronic constituent authorization while maintaining current privacy protections.

Walters, who joined U.S. Reps. Tom Rooney (R-FL) and Barbara Comstock (R-VA) in supporting the bill, said her goal is to make the federal government work better for her constituents.

“Each year, caseworkers in my Irvine office help hundreds of constituents navigate the federal government’s complicated bureaucracy,” Walters said. “From veterans burdened by the disability appeals backlog, to seniors unable to get their social security benefits, to families struggling to expedite passport renewals before a trip abroad, constituents are rightfully frustrated with bureaucratic red tape by the time they contact my office for help. Constituents should not be further inconvenienced with unnecessary paperwork that simply allows their member of Congress to engage with federal agencies on their behalf.”

The federal government needs to “catch up with modern technology,” Walters added, and bringing customer service into the digital age would be a good step in doing so.

“Whether constituents are recovering from a natural disaster or seeking answers from the Department of Veterans (VA), they deserve a straightforward way to receive timely responses from their government,” said Walters, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

In June, Graves said he introduced the bill after historic flooding in Louisiana last fall led to thousands of constituents calling his offices for help.

“It was embarrassing to have to tell people 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,” Graves said. “So, we immediately started efforts to identify the problem and how to fix it.”

The CASES for Constituents Act would direct the Trump administration to streamline digital processes for constituents to grant congressional offices electronic authorization in a way that would work across all federal agencies.

“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. “Compare your experience with FEMA or the VA with what you get from private businesses, and it’s no wonder the federal government’s approval rating is currently lower than any other sector in the United States.”