I’ve often been impressed with the clarity of reports written by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) at the Library of Congress (LOC). I had a few questions about Health Care for Veterans: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (2/24/14) and sent an email to the author. A staffer quickly replied with a formula email:
This is in response to your recent e-mail to the Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS provides research and analysis exclusively to the U.S. Congress. Because we work only for Congress, we are unable to respond to other inquiries. More information about CRS is available athttp://www.loc.gov/crsinfo/.
Shucks. I then asked:
Thank you for your response. Then should I send my questions to my senator’s or representative’s staff and see if they will contact you?
A fast answer:
That’s correct, you should place a request through your senator or representative’s office.
So here is my strategy for getting information from these organized government minds. I will send select questions to a MN senator, but with a header, something to the effect: “I am requesting that a CRS Specialist in Veterans Policy, NAME on report, and a CRS Analyst in Health Policy NAME on report, answer my questions…” and reference the report by title, date and number. The staffer who handles constituent veteran matters will probably be elated to know exactly what I want and where to get it. Additionally, they will learn facts absent in the VA’s often deceptively written gibberish–and who could expect much given recent evidence of the VA’s total lack of respect for information and record-keeping? In sharp contrast,
librarians are organizational wizards of the highest order! This excerpt from a blog post by LOC law librarian Kurt Carroll may sound a bit smug but if you click on the image, they have a right to brag about their management skills and professionalism.
The other day I visited the Library of Congress’ High Density Storage Facility at Fort Meade, Maryland. Yes, that’s right; we are shelving books in Maryland. With 2.65 million volumes in the Law Library, you don’t really believe we shelve them all in the sub-basement of the Madison building, do you? …retrieval from Ft. Meade is accurate and reliable. Books at Ft. Meade are listed in the catalog the same as books in our reading room and closed stacks – and they are requested in the same manner. Delivery will take longer, however. Deliveries from Ft. Meade are made twice daily. Books requested by 8:00 a.m. are usually delivered the same day. Books requested after 8:00 a.m. are generally delivered the following morning. It’s a longer wait, but a 100% retrieval rate.
Now, view (again) the “record keeping mayhem” by the dysfunctional minds at the VBA, review the 2012 OIG report on Winston-Salem or the 2009 Audit of Veterans Benefits Administration’s Control of Veterans’ Claims Folders. The latter estimated how many claims folders were lost, misplaced and mismanaged.
VA-produced documents are opposite of those of the CRS which rightly crows, “… the CRS is well-known for analysis that is authoritative, confidential, objective and nonpartisan. Its highest priority is to ensure that Congress has 24/7 access to the nation’s best thinking.” Our taxes pay for the research services of the CRS, we might as well use them via Congressional constituent services. If you want to try this, remember that only elected representatives from the state of your residence will help you.