One of the more underrepresented parts of our representative Democracy involves the work Congresspeople do in their constituent services offices. In addition to proposing and passing legislation, starting Medicare for All caucuses, and going on television to make Tucker Carlson look like an idiot, Jayapal also helps residents of her district resolve disputes with federal agencies. Or rather, she oversees a team who does.
Common stories involve people having trouble with VA checks, Social Security checks, and immigration papers. But every once in a while you'll get a weird story. My favorite anecdote came from Jayapal's caseworker report from last year. The story involves one USPS mail carrier single-handedly refusing to deliver mail to 1,200 people in an expensive apartment building downtown.
A representative from Jayapal's office told me over the phone that the postman didn't want to drop off the mail in the building's parcel room because, he claimed, the room wasn't up to post office's code. The room was, in fact, up to code—it's just that he preferred to leave the packages at the front door of the building rather than going inside.
Though I believe people deserve to have their mail delivered reliably and on time, I'm sympathetic to the mailman's cause. Going inside meant he had to find street parking, which, as we all know, can sometimes take several years.
Earlier this week, Jayapal published her caseworker report for 2018. None of the stories in the list Jayapal's team provided are as good as the one about the mail carrier, but some of them are kinda shocking/moving/genuinely weird. In these stories, you can almost see what it'd be like if Congress was working at even just 49 percent peak proficiency. Some of the names are made up to protect privacy.
There was that time Jayapal's office served as Antiques Roadshow enforcer:
A constituent contacted our office regarding the seizure of a flask he had purchased at an antique auction in New York City. The flask had been erroneously flagged as a potentially stolen antiquity by the New York City Department of Justice. He had been attempting for more than two years to recover the flask. Due to our office’s intervention with the relevant agencies, the flask was released to him. The flask has a retail value of approximately $250,000.
That time Jayapal's office got a blind lady her money:
Social Security made an error on how much Janie McDermott, who is blind and deaf, was owed. Our inquiry resulted in an authorization for reconsideration, resulting in $162,000 in payments to be disbursed.
That time Jayapal's office got Connie her money from the VA:
Our office assisted in obtaining payment from a general contractor, Clark Construction, on long overdue invoices at the new VA Mental Health Facility. The amount was received 6 days after they contacted our office in the amount of $387,094.
That time Jayapal's office helped a guy drastically reduce his chemo bill:
We assisted a constituent in extending her husband’s Medicare coverage to include his chemotherapy treatment. Through the help of our office, the cost of his chemotherapy was reduced from $11,800 per month to $540 per month. Both constituents are now fully covered by Medicare Part D, and will continue to receive their coverage for as long as they need it. Additionally, our constituent is reacting extremely well to the chemo, making the affordability of this kind of health care—and the access to programs like Medicare—more valuable.
Jayapal's office claims that one third of their cases involve immigration, and that this year 93.6 percent of the cases they dealt with "resulted in favorable outcomes." This one stuck out:
Derek contacted our office for assistance with his work permit and advance parole travel document. Under recently changed USCIS regulations, individuals could no longer travel outside the U.S. while in the process of renewing documentation, even if they hold valid documentation. Derek could not even travel to his country of citizenship. Our office facilitated the collection of documents attesting to the financial loss to Derek and to his company of this rule change, and successfully assisted the expedited approval and delivery of his travel permit. Without our office’s intervention, this change would have cost Derek $130,000 in missed business trips, an overall financial loss of $200,000 for his employer.
You can read the rest of them yourself. And if you ever need help with your immigration papers, snatchin' back your flask, extending your Medicare coverage, or dealing with a particularly recalcitrant mail carrier, call her office up at 206-674-0040 or fill out this here form.