U.S. Congress: Have you ever contacted your congressman for assistance?
They really go to bat for you.But before we begin, make sure what you're asking for your congressperson can actually help with. Trouble with the payment of Medicare premiums? They would love to help.Boyfriend in prison? Members of congress are strictly prohibited from interfering in the judicial process in anyway. You've had it up to here trying to obtain a visa for a relative? Sure thing. Your neighbor won't shut his dogs up? No .Can't navigate the bureaucracy of a state agency? No, but they'd be more than happy to put you in touch with your state representatives you will in turn be more than happy to help you with that. It's an emergency you need help, like, 10 minutes ago? They will do the best they can to help, but they can't work miracles. Please try to give at least two weeks, at the very, very minimum, if the case is at all time sensitive. Basically, help with a federal agency? Yes.Anything else? Probably not. But still call to check just in case. There are exceptions. For example, they can help with the banks during foreclosures. Now how to contact your congressperson in the way that is the easiest for both you and them.Keep in mind that senators have two different offices- legislative and district. The legislative office is in Washington DC and the office most people think to contact. But you're going to want to contact the district office. The district office has on staff professional whose sole purpose is to assist constituents with federal agencies.The most efficient way to request help is to:Go onto his or her official (not campaign) website (it will end in .gov). On it there should be a, hopefully, easy to locate a tab.Or just right on the page It should say something along the lines of "Get Help with a Federal Agency" or "Serving Wisconsinites"or "Constituent Services" There it will give you instructions on how to contact the office. Most likely it will give you several options (online, call, letter) Call them. You'll get a lovely intern or staff assistant who will listen to your story and pass it along to the people who will actually handle your case. Don't demand to talk to that person right away, because there is nobody actually handling your case yet. It will get passed along and assigned to the appropriate staff member, who will then get back in touch with you. Make sure they get your contact information. Figure out if you need to fill out a release. When you call, ask if the type of case you're requesting help with requires you to fill out a Personal Authorization Form. If it does, snail mail, fax, or send it to them as a pdf as soon as you're off the phone. Paperwork is annoying, but it's a pretty quick form and required under the Right to Privacy Act. The release should be easy enough to find once you've clicked on the constituent services tab but if you're having trouble you know the phone number!Gather all appropriate documentation. The more information you prregarding your situation the better and faster they will be able to help. A lot of the delays during the process are caused by waiting for constituents to gather and find all the necessary papers, records, etc. The process will go much more smoothly if you have it all ready to go. Wait. Someone should be back in touch with you in a timely fashion, though understand that your congressperson represents hundreds of thousands of people, or millions if you contacted a senator. The caseload at most offices can be quite significant, but they do their best to work as quickly as possible. Generally, if someone still hasn't gotten back to you in two weeks follow up with a phone call. Work with the office. A staff member will reach back out to you and then start to work on your behalf. Some disputes are simple. Some are complex. A lot have favorable outcomes. Other's, unfortunately, don't. Bureaucracy sucks, no getting around that. But try to stay patient throughout the process. Every caseworker I've met works hard, but they have heavy workloads. Unfortunately delays in a system as large as the federal government are often unavoidable, more often than not the caseworker will be just as frustrated as you are with the agencies out in DC. Best of luck as you begin this process!