Constituent service

Column by Tom Perriello

One of the most important parts of my job is to assist constituents with any issues or problems they are facing when dealing with federal government agencies. The caseworkers in my offices in Charlottesville, Danville, Farmville, and Martinsville helped nearly 800 Fifth District residents in 2009 cut through government red tape and solve individual, sometime complex, problems with federal agencies. Here are the kinds of cases we helped with and some of the stories behind the numbers.

Veterans/Military (33 percent of cases): A Vietnam War veteran from Danville was hospitalized in the Salem Veterans Administration Hospital for about two weeks. Before he was discharged, his doctor told him he would not be able to work full-time due to his permanent service-related medical problems. My office helped him get his claim approved with the VA with the extra benefit of it being permanent and total, which means he doesn’t have to be reevaluated every few years. The celebration didn’t last too long though. Two days later after getting the great news, this gentleman’s wife learned that she was losing her job of 11 years. She would have to pay close to $400 a month for health insurance under COBRA, but getting the added VA benefit allowed her to get new insurance through the VA, and keep the same doctors who she’s seen for years.

Social Security (22 percent of cases): A 70 year-old woman from Albemarle County received a letter from her insurance company saying her supplemental insurance had been cancelled because the Social Security Administration had reported her as deceased. Needless to say, she was shocked, scared her Social Security benefits may be affected, and confused about where to turn. My office immediately talked to the local SSA offices and straightened out the error. We had her “brought back to life” in no time and her benefits were not affected.

Flag Requests (8 percent of cases): My office helps Fifth District residents with requests for flags flown over the U.S. Capitol building for special occasions and to honor loved ones. One very special request came from a woman in Martinsville, who asked that a flag be flown on the fifth anniversary of her son’s death. Her son, Lance Corporal Demarkus D. Brown, was 22 when he was killed while serving in Iraq’s Anbar province. After the flag was flown on the U.S. Capitol, it was placed permanently on the flagpole dedicated in his honor at Laurel Park Middle School in Martinsville.

Taxes/IRS (7 percent of cases): A gentleman in Pittsylvania County had been trying to obtain an Earned Income Credit (EIC) from the IRS since March of 2009. The paperwork with the IRS was backlogged and he could not get the money owed to him. When he came to us by the end of October, we started working on his case with the IRS. By November’s end, his case was resolved and he has received $1,650.48 for the EIC.

Here are some additional statistics about the efforts we made in 2009 to reach out to Fifth District constituents:
– 36,119 letters and emails sent to constituents
– 27,483 people attending 4 telephone town hall meetings

– 23,689 miles put on my truck traveling around the Fifth District

– 11 “Tom in Your Town” events providing one-on-one constituent services
– 21 town hall meetings in the month of August alone, attended by 4,742 people and lasting over 100 hours

– 75 grant support letters written to federal and state agencies and foundations

– 52 “Perriello Reports” weekly newsletters

– 3,806 subscribers to the weekly e-newsletter

– 425 Washington tour requests from Fifth District constituents processed

Please feel free to contact me to share your concerns and ideas. You may call 1-888-4-TOM4US (1-888-486-6487); write to 1520 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; or visit to sign up for my weekly e-newsletter.


Tom Perriello represents the Fifth District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives.


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