Congressman Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced bi-partisan legislation in the US House of Representatives this week to modernize a core function of congressional office operations and streamline customer service for constituents – H.R. 3076, the Creating Advanced Streamlined Electronic Services (CASES) for Constituents Act of 2017.
The CASES Act would give constituents the option to electronically authorize their Members of Congress to engage a federal agency on their behalf – a federally-required privacy protection process currently done on paper. Rep. Graves introduced CASES as part of his ongoing initiative to advance solutions to government inefficiencies through technology and innovation.
Graves continued: “After Louisiana’s historic flooding last fall, we were all-hands-on-deck to field the thousands of calls from flood victims in need of 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. So, we immediately started efforts to identify the problem and how to fix it.”
The Privacy Act of 1974 requires that Members of Congress or their staff have written authorization before they can obtain information about an individual's case. Currently, constituents in need of assistance to resolve issues with a the VA, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or other federal agencies must physically print, sign and fax, mail or hand deliver a “privacy release form” to their congressional office before the office can take action. This process is archaic, an inconvenience to constituents and can cause unnecessarily delayed issue resolution.
“It’s amazing that – in a world where nearly all adult Americans use the internet, 75% of households have broadband access in their homes and more than 80% carry a smartphone – Washington is largely doing its business the same way it did more than a quarter of a century ago,”said Graves. “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.”
CASES integrates modern technology into a necessary process by allowing people to grant congressional offices electronic authorization, while retaining the option of a paper submission. It would direct the Trump Administration to develop a streamlined and consistent process across all agencies while ensuring the necessary privacy protections stay intact.
Rep. Graves is a leading voice in the effort to modernize the federal government and a number of his technology solutions have passed in the House, including his FEMA Modernization, Accountability and Transparency Act, the Innovation in Offshore Leasing Act and a provision in the FAST Act that encouraged better application of technologies to improve traffic systems – which was signed into law. He was recently invited to the White House to participate in the president’s American Technology Council, accompanying CEOs from Amazon, Microsoft and other companies at the forefront of tech-innovation. Graves is also a member of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s innovation working group, which exists to identify legislative opportunities to innovate how the government operates to improve its performance.
Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-MA) joined Graves as an original co-sponsor of the Creating Advanced Streamlined Electronic Services (CASES) for Constituents Act of 2017.