Stephanie Thum, CCXP, is the former vice president of customer experience at the Export-Import Bank of the United States. She is currently practice director, customer experience and analytics, at Capitol Management Consulting Services. Follow her on Twitter: @stephaniethum.
While it's true that very few bills introduced in Congress become law, one piece of bipartisan legislation gaining momentum in the House right now is worth tracking, especially if digital tools, customer experience, and citizen experience are part of the world you live in.
The bill is called Creating Advanced Streamlined Electronic Services for Constituents Act of 2017 (H.R. 3076)—CASES, for short. It is important for a few reasons.
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Let’s say you’re a citizen who has an issue with the Veterans Affairs Department, Medicare or Medicaid, Social Security Administration or Federal Emergency Management Agency that you’ve been unable to resolve on your own. Your issue has gotten to the point that you need your elected official to intervene with that agency on your behalf. Right now by law you have to physically print, sign and hand carry or mail a privacy release form to your elected official before they can engage that agency on your behalf. There is no digital alternative.
It’s that way—the paper way—because of The Privacy Act of 1974, which came about well before technology became a truly viable way of serving citizens. CASES would amend the law so that electronic authorizations would be allowable. The path would be clear for a new digital tool or process that would help citizens engage their elected officials from the convenience of their smartphone or tablet. Under the proposed legislation, the Office of Management and Budget would be required to create a uniform release form to be used across all agencies.
CASES is timely, in part, due to the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Twelve new cosponsors have signed on in support of CASES in the past three weeks alone, including four just in the past week. That's understandable when you consider the bill's inception. A press release from Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., explains:
“After Louisiana's historic flooding last fall, we were all-hands-on-deck to field the thousands of calls from flood victims in need of help. It was embarrassing to have to tell people who literally just lost everything—including their printers and internet—that the law requires them to print and fax, scan, or mail in a sheet of paper authorizing us to speak to FEMA or any other agency before we could do anything. So, we immediately started efforts to identify the problem and how to fix it.”
Of course, as anyone who has worked in the trenches of agency government customer experience, customer service, and information technology knows, if CASES becomes law, implementation won't be fast, cheap, or easy.
But, even if CASES doesn't become law, discussions will move forward now surrounding laws, regulations, and rules that could be standing in the way of creating digital tools that matter to citizens. That particular conversation hasn't risen to the surface enough. It's time now.
The CASES for Constituents Act of 2017 was referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on June 27, 2017.