No other responsibility of a congressman so directly affects the lives of the average person as that of "constituent service." Constituent services take on a wide variety of forms and this column is devoted to describing some of those activities and opportunities.
Perhaps the single most important is that of handling "casework." Put simply, casework is when I, or one of my staff acting in my behalf, intervenes directly on behalf of a constituent or group of constituents before a federal agency, board or commission.
This is sometimes involves making a phone call, perhaps asking that the Veterans Administration send the proper forms to the widow of a veteran, or writing a letter, for example, asking for a delay of improper hearings before an IRS administrative court. But some casework can also involve having myself or a staff member make appearances at hearings, such as when I recently sent my Chief of Staff to Maryland to speak against the closing of a weather station in the district, which is an important issue to a great many people in the 14th District.
Generally, casework involving constituents dealing with federal agencies is handled out of one of my three district offices, in Victoria (512-576-1231), Freeport (409-230-0000) or San Marcos (512-396-1400). The offices will accept collect calls.
But the three traditional offices are not the only means by which constituents can have access to my congressional staff, such as my Mobile Office. This office, a specially converted blue van, travels to the rural parts of the district, offering congressional services to people who might not be able to travel (for health or work reasons) to one of the three traditional offices, but want to meet with someone in person. The Mobile Office's schedule is published in local papers, and is parked in visible places in the community, with constituents actually meeting with my staff in the office itself. The Mobile Office can be contacted at (512) 753-5553.
Further, my staff and I are available to come to schools or community groups to discuss topics ranging from the current events going in Washington to the process by which laws are made.
Constituent services are not limited to solely to the geographic confines of the 14th District.
Constituents of the 14th District can contact my Washington office (202-225-2831) and request that US flags be flown over the Capitol to commemorate special occasions or events (there is a nominal cost involved).
And for constituents visiting Washington, DC, there are even more services available. Perhaps the most popular are special VIP tours of the Capitol by my staff; constituents can be taken onto the Floor of the House and Senate when Congress is not in session, as well into other parts of the Capitol not generally accessible to the public. Further, with enough notice, my staff can obtain special passes for constituents to tour the White House, the FBI Headquarters and even the Treasury's printing operations. All of these tours are offered at no cost to the constituent.
Finally, there are two important information services available to constituents of the 14th District. The first is my toll-free Legislative Update line. By calling (888) 322-1414, you can hear an update on legislation before Congress as well as information on items of general interest and debate. The second information service is my official congressional web site (www.house.gov/paul/). At this site visitors can find an archive of all my speeches, press releases and even the text of legislation I have sponsored, as well as leave electronic messages for me.
I am most pleased with the high level of constituent service my office has been able to provide, and my staff and I are always willing to take suggestions for further improvements.
No other responsibility of the congressional office
is as important, or as rewarding, as the opportunity to assist
constituents - whether dealing with federal agencies, providing
commemorative flags, or making a trip to Washington more memorable.
Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas in the United States House. He can be contacted at his Washington office, 203 Cannon HOB, Washington, DC 20515, or at his web site (www.house.gov/paul/).