Posted by: Susan | February 25, 2009

The Best Congressman (Part III)

When I worked for a government contractor a few years ago, the words “Congressional Inquiry” were enough to cause heartburn, late hours, and more than a few swear words among the staff.  A “Congressional” meant that some Senator or Congressman had received a complaint or inquiry from a constituent about a real or perceived injustice, wrongdoing, or error committed by us, the evil contractor.  We quickly learned that any such inquiry took priority over anything else – as in, drop everything and no one goes home until this is resolved and a response is provided to the inquiry.  We also learned that we were always – ALWAYS – presumed guilty, and that the constituent is always – ALWAYS – right.  We just assumed that we were made to jump through hoops because our particular government agency truly hated us and resented our very existence.  Not all inquiries were probably treated as such priorities, we thought.

This all came back to me recently as I struggled to get a response from a federal agency.  If you think the customer service provided by your cable provider, cell phone company, or ISP is poor, you have yet to experience dealing with our federal government.  Sure, there’s a website and a national toll-free number, but the catch is that the web site provides only general information and the people on the other end of the phone don’t have any specifics about a particular situation.  This you find out after giving six (6) pieces of information to the automated mechanical voice who requests it, including your mother’s maiden and first names, all the while being reassured that you can always start over if you make a mistake.  But any specifics must be provided by the local office, whose phone number is constantly busy.  While I wore out the redial button on my phone and occasionally managed to get through and get placed in the queue, 4 out of 5 times I was disconnected after waiting on hold for 20 minutes.  I’m talking about Social Security folks, and you, too, will have to deal with it one of these days.  I shudder to think about dealing with Medicare as all of us Boomers hit the system.

So after literally 3 weeks of daily chasing my tail and rising blood pressure (not good for a person of my age!), I remembered the “Congressional” and made contact with my favorite Congressman, Tom Price, of the 6th District of Georgia.  I really didn’t expect a miracle, but I got one.  The day after I contacted his office for constituent services, I got a call from Social Security with another call the following morning to confirm that everything was resolved.  Wow! 

Obviously, I have sent a thank you letter to both Rep. Price and to his staffer, Jennifer Poole, in his Canton office.  But I wanted to also thank them publicly and encourage anyone who lives in the 6th District to be sure to vote for him next time.  I have written to him many times expressing my views on various issues and have never failed to receive a written response by mail.  And those who don’t live in the district should be aware that Rep. Price, a physician, is a key person on our side in the health care debate as well as a champion of the Fair Tax.  So if you give any support or money to the RNC, you might want to keep his name in mind.



And just a few words about Social Security, which all of us will have to eventually reckon with one way or another (God willing!).  Your local office is where claims are processed.  My local office serves 1 million people with a staff of 60.  Every day there are 300 to 500 people visiting the office, which prevents those 60 staffers from being able to take phone calls and respond to internet inquiries and claims.  And the Boomer wave is just beginning to hit, along with the current economic situation creating further demand.  The people I spoke with couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating and were clearly working extra hours to try to meet the demand.  But there are people who are waiting years for responses to disability claims!  This is how government services work, unfortunately.  It appears to me that there is a lot of money being spent to provide a website and staff that has no ability to solve problems or respond to specific issues.

There is a real difference in dealing with a government agency versus a private sector entity.  After this experience, I honestly hope I don’t live long enough to experience life under government-run health care.  But it’s coming.  Already, on average nearly 50% of every dollar received by a hospital comes from the government.  We all need to be either very afraid or very active in this debate.  But that’s a subject for another post and another day.


  1. Susan, your best post ever. Loved it.

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