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Recognizing Caseworkers in Illinois' 15th District

Floor Speech

Date: Oct. 1, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SHIMKUS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to continue to thank my staff for excellent service to the constituents of my district and sometimes to those even outside my district.

In our organization, caseworkers live and work in Illinois. They work out of my district offices, which I have historically spread out throughout my large, mainly rural district. During this Congress, my offices have been in Maryville, Effingham, Harrisburg, and Danville.

My caseworkers are my representatives to that region. They also welcome visitors and forward legislative concerns to my legislative assistant, but their primary job is that of casework.

What is a case? A case is a concern, request, or correction by my constituents who feel that they are not receiving due benefits or having trouble just getting answers from the Federal Government. Our job is to get them an answer. I was always careful never to promise that I could solve their problem; I only promise that we would try. My caseworkers did all the work.

Mr. Speaker, those district caseworkers are:

Ballard, Mary; Buettner, Ruth; Bugger, Doug; Carlson, Brad; Davis, Rodney; Detmers, Deb (Fansler); Dillman, Jen; Flanigan, Matt; Graham, Donna; Hall, Mike; Hamilton, Daniel; Hanson, John; Hantz, Chuck; Healy, Holly (Linder); Hoffman, Doug.

Jamison, Reno; Madigan Andrea; Maxwell, Mary Ellen/Maria (Madonia); Merriman, Angie; Nelson, Jed; Newcomb, Nate; Holloway, Kay D.; Pickett, Matt; Pruitt, Jen; Rice, Matt; Rohan, Dora; Shull, Kristen; Tomaszewski, Steve; Von Burg, Peggy; Weber, Amy.

Mr. Speaker, over the years, my office has been able to assist literally thousands of people with their problems with the Federal Government. Here are just a few examples of things that they have been able to accomplish.

One of my constituents was born in Mississippi in the 1930s at home with a midwife. In her seventies, she tried to get a passport for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Spain, but her birth was never recorded, and her parents were deceased.

My office assisted her in obtaining school records, baptismal certificates, marriage license, children's birth certificates, and certified letters from old friends. These documents, combined with a Census search showing her living with her grandmother in Mississippi in the 1940s, finally was ample information for her to obtain a passport.

Mr. Speaker, I have been able to present medals to deserving veterans across my district. Often the veterans do not want to talk about their experience, but their awards are important to their children and their grandchildren. One of these veterans was the uncle of my veterans affairs caseworker, Doug Bugger. Another is a veteran from Robinson, Illinois, who had been shot and taken prisoner by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. After receiving the awards, he gave an interview to the Robinson Daily News and used a photograph of him with his medals, including his Purple Heart. Helping in the recovery of these military awards helps these veterans relay their experiences to family and friends.

Social Security disability is a long and frustrating process. One gentleman had been approved but had waited nearly a year for his backpay when he came to my Harrisburg office. It turned out it was coded incorrectly in the Social Security system. Within 2 weeks, my office got the situation corrected, and he received his backpay.

Some of our happiest casework is to help families with overseas adoptions, like the family that was in the process of adopting a child from Haiti just as the pandemic was shutting everything down. My office was able to work with the Embassy to get child humanitarian parole to come to the United States of America.

Mr. Speaker, I can go on and on like most offices could talking about the work that their caseworkers do. I don't have time to do that, so I will include these additional stories in the Record.

A veteran came to one of my Traveling Help Desks. He had recently undergone a partial amputation of his foot. The VA doctor missed the diagnosis, so a private doctor performed the procedure. The VA was refusing to pay for the surgery, but after our inquiry, the VA agreed the surgery was necessary and it was their mistake in missing the diagnosis and paid the bill for $1,712.76. A veteran had fallen off a crane during his time in the military. This resulted in a 3-inch gash to the head and subsequent severe seizures. He had been trying to get disability from the VA for 10 years. After our inquiry, he was granted a 100% service-connected disability and approved retroactively for 10 years (estimated $227,440) and now receives $1,940 per month.

A veteran requested our assistance in obtaining his father's silver star from WWI. We were able to obtain this, as well as his other medals and I presented them to the family at a family reunion. The family made a box for the medals and gave them to the American Legion to display. The family was very happy.

A constituent contacted our office on behalf of her husband. Medicare was denying his claims because there was an error in the paperwork that showed her husband had employer-provided insurance, when in fact he had been retired since 1986. Her husband was terminally ill, and she was spending a lot of time trying to resolve this situation. She had called more than 50 places before she called our office. After contacting our office, we were able to have the problem fixed and have the claims reprocessed and paid.

A union contacted our office on the issue of wage differentiation concerning government employees in Illinois. After our inquiry, it was determined there was an error when the wage differentiation was made, and a salary adjustment was made.

The local FSA was not allowing some constituents to mow their property that was enrolled in the CRP program. Not mowing the land would result in trees growing on the property, which would defeat the purpose of having the land in CRP. After an inquiry from our office, the state revised their rules.

A constituent came to us because Social Security was showing him as deceased, when in fact it was his wife who had passed away on May 20 of this year. We were able to expedite a correction of his records and have his retirement benefits reinstated. This was a Social Security Administration error.

A constituent received a notice from the IRS that after paying her debt of $2,400 from her quarterly taxes of 9/87 and 12/87 on her previous business, she now owed $3,184 in interest and penalties. She was never aware of the interest and penalties as she had repeatedly asked for a statement from the IRS for her $100.00 payments and federal tax returns they had also been keeping. Also, she had never received the original bills because her business closed in 1990, and they had been sending these notices to that address. We ended up going with her to an IRS problem solving day and staying with her through several hours of negotiations. Eventually, her balance was zeroed. She was very grateful and ended up testifying at our IRS hearings.

A constituent was applying for a teaching position at one of the local schools. He needed transcripts from his alma mater in Oklahoma to obtain his provisional teaching certificate. The school was telling him they could not provide this because they did not keep records prior to 1985. We were able to intervene with the school, and obtain a letter verifying his completion of a 72-hour course from a former instructor. This worked for the teaching certificate and he received the job.

A constituent contacted our office regarding his request to help him obtain an answer from AT&T Broadband Services concerning the free internet service for schools that they have advertised. He contacted AT&T several times but never felt he got a straight answer as to when the service was going to be available to the school. I met with AT&T representatives and told them of this situation. AT&T got in touch with him and the school was hooked up. I was able to visit the school and see the technology area. The kids all sent me a thank you note.

A constituent worked at a small local newspaper. She had contacted us for assistance with child support enforcement. Her ex was in the Navy and then became a pilot. According to the law, he could lose his passport for being over $5,000 in arrears. He owed $10,330 and we were able to work with the appropriate enforcement agencies and he ended up paying $5,500 of his debt and his monthly payment increased from $200 a month to $1,000 a month. She was very grateful to our office.

The Edwards County Coroner informed my office that the remains of a Sgt. Kenneth Cunningham of Albion had been identified 45 years after his plane went down over the Kon Tum Province in Vietnam. The coroner and family were working to bring the remains home for a burial and were having some difficulty with the bureaucracy. We were able to talk to the Defense Department and help with the arrangements the family wanted. The family was able to be at the airport in Louisville, Kentucky when he arrived, and the Patriot Guard accompanied Sgt. Cunningham back to Albion where citizens lined up along the route to pay their respects. The VFW distributed 500 flags along the route and more than 200 local volunteers lined the route from the town to the cemetery with over 2,400 flags.

A constituent sought my help in March of this year during the COVID- 19 pandemic to bring his daughter and his grandson back to the United States on the repatriation flights the Department of State offered. Working with the father and the State Department they both made it back to the United States two and half weeks after contacting us.

Also, in March we assisted 5 constituents stranded in Honduras after the border had been closed. They had problems receiving their transit letters from the U.S. Embassy so they could travel to the airport. We were able to assist, and they were able to get seats on a plane chartered by a church out of Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Sny Island Levee Drainage District protects 110,000 acres of prime farmland in west central Illinois. Due to the change in flow of the Mississippi, this privately owned and maintained levee was threatened with failing. We helped coordinate emergency repairs by the Corp of Engineers to protect the navigation channel at that location. This also protected the farmland.

``Lights On for Route 20'' was a movement for a four-lane road between Springfield and Taylorville. Lobbied intensely by the local communities and concerned parents we were able to designate one million dollars for engineering. This was a small investment versus the total costs. This investment did get the attention of the state representative and the state senator who requested that this project be included in the governor's Build Illinois project list. We now have a four-lane road between Springfield and Taylorville.

Mr. Speaker, some cases resolve quickly. Many cases take months and even years to resolve. My caseworkers always show compassion and concern to my constituents. They answer their calls; they return their calls; and for that, I say thanks. I am very proud of the service that they have given to the people of southern Illinois.