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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions


1. What is a privacy release form and why is it required?
2. Is the privacy release form only required by Congressman Wittman?
3. What will the Congressman be able to do after I complete and sign this form? 
4. Do I need to provide the details of my situation on the privacy release form (PRF)? Does the agency see my PRF? 
5. If I have supporting documents, will they help my case? 
6. How long will it take to process my case? Can the congressman expedite my case? 
7. Do I have to live in the congressman's district to receive assistance? 
8. Can your office help with a state or local issue? 
9. What if my case is currently in court, or is legal in nature? 
10. Can I meet with someone in person to discuss my case? 

1. What is a privacy release form and why is it required?

Under the Privacy Act of 1974, federal agencies require a Member of Congress to have a written and signed letter before intervening on a constituent's behalf. A "privacy release form" (PRF) allows us to make a congressional inquiry to a federal agency. The form must be signed by the person directly affected (federal agencies do NOT typically accept electronic signatures), and it must contain all pertinent information including: 

- Full Name
- Address
- Contact Information
- Full Social Security Number (if applicable to your case) or agency reference number
- Any number associated with the case/claim

If we do not receive a PRF, or the form is incomplete, we may not be able to begin the casework process for you.


2. Is the privacy release form only required by Congressman Wittman?
 
 
No. The Privacy Act of 1974 requires all Members of Congress to have a constituent's written permission before intervening with a federal agency on his/her behalf.

3. What will the Congressman be able to do after I complete and sign this form? 

 

We will initiate an inquiry with the relevant federal agency and provide all supporting documentation, if appropriate. My staff and I will do our best to facilitate the casework process, and ensure a fair and timely review of your case. 


4. Do I need to provide the details of my situation on the privacy release form (PRF)? Does the agency see my PRF? 

The more information you are able to provide in explaining your problem and your request, the better positioned the agency will be to address your concerns. You have the option of providing the details of your case on the PRF (there is a space on the form where you can describe your problem and request assistance), or you can attach to the PRF a letter that details your concerns. Because the details of your case are so important to identifying the issue and helping facilitate an appropriate review and response, I would encourage you to consider submitting a letter along with your PRF. The federal agencies relevant to your case do see the privacy release form and the individual letter (if one is submitted). 


5. If I have supporting documents, will they help my case? 

Yes, in some cases. New and relevant information can be helpful to the federal agency when reviewing your case. 



6. How long will it take to process my case? Can the congressman expedite my case? 

Typically, an agency responds within 30 days to a congressional inquiry. However, the nature of the case will dictate the time it takes to resolve the issues. As a general rule, federal agencies will not expedite your case due to a Congressional inquiry. However, in the event of a dire need or critical health concerns or other urgent circumstances (e.g. a missing passport for an upcoming trip), we can request that the agency expedite the case.


7. Do I have to live in the congressman's district to receive assistance? 

Yes. While a private citizen may communicate with any Member of Congress on any issue, our ability to provide assistance to non-constituents is limited by House Ethics Rules and the rules governing the use of official House resources. Specifically, the law says that official resources are provided to a Member office to "support the conduct of the official and representational duties of a Member of the House of Representatives with respect to the district from which the Member is elected." In short, a Member of Congress generally cannot perform work for an individual who resides outside the congressional district the Member represents. We will refer those individuals to their own Representative or Senator.


8. Can your office help with a state or local issue? 

As a federal office, we cannot intervene in matters under the jurisdiction of local or state governments (examples include: DMV, VDOT, child support enforcement, local school issues and local social service office issues). However, we will contact your state representative or local elected official on your behalf and make sure they get in touch with you. You can also click  http://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov/ to find your state elected official.


9. What if my case is currently in court, or is legal in nature? 

The ethics rules governing the House of Representatives prohibit Members of Congress from intervening in or influencing the outcome of any case under the jurisdiction of any court. In addition, we cannot offer legal advice or recommend an attorney.


10. Can I meet with someone in person to discuss my case? 


Yes. Our caseworkers are available for personal, in-office appointments, or by phone, to discuss the nature of your case. 

 

What You Can Expect


Although I cannot override the decisions made by a federal agency, I can often intervene to ask questions, find solutions or just cut through the red tape. My staff and I will do our best to ensure a fair and timely review of your case. As we work to address your concerns, please bear in mind that we cannot force an agency to expedite your case or to act in your favor. Additionally, by law, we cannot become involved in court cases or any legal matters. 

 

What my office can do:

·         Help you communicate with federal agencies.

·         Request information or a status report on your case.

·         Request that an agency consider or reconsider your case.

·         Submit an inquiry with a federal agency on your behalf.

·         Help you obtain basic information from a federal agency.

 

What my office cannot do:

·         Force a federal agency to act in your favor, speed up your case or override decisions made by a federal agency (this includes decisions relating to personnel matters).

·         Conduct investigations regarding you case.

·         Provide legal advice or recommend an attorney. However, the Virginia State Bar website has a lawyer referral service http://www.vsb.org/vlrs/.  They also have a Pro Bono referral service for low and modest income Virginians http://www.vsb.org/site/pro_bono.

·         Overturn or influence matters involving private businesses.

·         Intervene with state issues. My office cannot overturn or influence matters under the jurisdiction of local or state governments. If your issue involves state or municipal agencies, please contact your state legislators or contact the state agency directly. The Governor of Virginia’s office may also be able to help you with state issues.

·         Intervene with judicial issues. My office cannot legally get involved with pending litigation, including questions about criminal trials or imprisonment, child custody issues, deportation proceedings and civil lawsuits. My cannot overturn or in any way influence a court’s decision.

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