US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Here to Serve

Here to Serve
By U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)

As a senator, much of my time is spent in committee meetings, voting on legislation and meeting with constituents. However, a major part of the job is to assist people with navigating the complex federal bureaucracy. In fact, “casework,” as it’s called, is a primary focus of our South Dakota offices.

South Dakotans having trouble getting answers from a federal agency are welcome to contact my offices in Pierre, Sioux Falls, Rapid City or Aberdeen for assistance. Staff members in our South Dakota offices are specially trained to act as liaisons between constituents and federal government agencies. Our goal is to clear up some of the red tape so the federal government can work to fix the issue you are having trouble with.

The majority of our casework is related to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This is followed closely by immigration casework. However, we also work on many other issues, so if you are having a problem with any other federal agency, please contact us.

We have had a number of success stories, which is always our goal. A veteran from Hot Springs contacted us recently seeking assistance to receive his retroactive pay from the VA and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) for his disability payments from 2005 to 2008. The VA refused to pay their portion until DFAS payed theirs. DFAS claimed they didn’t owe anything to the veteran and refused to perform an audit from 2005 to 2008 because, according to their records, the claim was already completed. We worked to prove the audit occurred before changes to his disability took effect, therefore it did not show a change in his disability rating. The VA then corrected the veterans’ account, and the veteran ultimately received his retroactive payment. Because working around the federal bureaucracy can be frustrating and complicated, I encourage you to reach out to us for assistance if you are having problems.

You may have also heard about the case involving a World War II veteran, Sylvan Vigness of Flandreau, who was wounded during a kamikaze attack while on board the U.S.S. Hinsdale. His family contacted us seeking the Purple Heart for Mr. Vigness. We were able to intervene on his behalf by sending a letter to the Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer. Finally, at age 94, Mr. Vigness was awarded the Purple Heart in January of this year. The award was long overdue, but watching him receive the award and seeing all of his family and friends there to support him was one of the highlights of my job as a senator. We were pleased that his family was able to recognize his sacrifice for our country before he passed away earlier this year.

Our staff members who handle casework are available every week day. Appointments aren’t necessary—simply walk in, give us a call or send an email through our website. We also hold regular mobile office hours in towns across the state. Our team enjoys having citizens stop in to talk about an issue you may be facing. Mobile office hours are always posted in advance on my Facebook page, which can be found atwww.facebook.com/SenatorMikeRounds. We also share our mobile office hours with local newspapers, so keep an eye out to see if we’re in your town soon! You can stop by to simply say hello and share your thoughts about the work we’re doing. We welcome your feedback, as it helps me to make better decisions for you in the Senate.

If you’d like to contact any of my offices for any reason at all, the contact information is on my website, www.rounds.senate.gov. My team works closely together across the state and in Washington, and we strive to provide a timely response to everyone who contacts us, particularly if it is an urgent matter in which we are able to intervene.

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