I was very taken aback by the letter offering harsh criticism of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and the manner in which he deals with requests for constituent services. The writer spoke of repeated unanswered calls and letters and a belief that April 15 was a fine time to show a lack of caring for the people of the state of Illinois. [Durbin and Kirk don’t answer their phones, Viewpoints, April 11].

My experience has been the total opposite. In my social work position, I have helped clients contact the Senator’s staff to seek help when the federal government seemed to turn its back on them. I can tell you that Sen. Durbin’s staff literally prevented the foreclosure of an Iraq combat vet’s home by intervening with the Social Security Administration to release improperly held funds so the vet could pay his mortgage. I can tell you that Sen. Durbin’s Chicago office staff has repeatedly intervened to ensure due process in benefits adjudication for numerous clients of mine. And I can tell you that the Senator’s staff was able to break an INS logjam to allow an overseas cousin to attend a family wedding (INS wanted a year and a half to process a one-week tourist visa; such processing would have yielded a visa a year after the wedding).

Has the Senator’s office ever flubbed up or made mistakes? Sure, but don’t we all? A follow-up phone call or a resubmission of the Federal Privacy Act Release Form that must be completed if any citizen requests the aid of any government official is usually enough to get things back on track. In fact, on one occasion the very kind young woman who answers the phone in the Chicago office suggested that my client do just that if he did not get a response after two weeks.

I will not comment on my communication with other federal officials because some of them have not been so successful. But I can tell you that my personal and professional contacts with Sen. Durbin’s Chicago office staff has led to the breaking down of many barriers that some appointed and career federal officials seemed to think was an acceptable way to treat a taxpaying U.S. citizen.

I believe that when credit is due, it should be given. And as a U.S. citizen (and voter) living in Illinois, I am truly grateful that we have Dick Durbin and a staff who will stand up for us (even if we have to be understanding if they are unable to attend to our request at the exact time we make it).

Frank Vozak is an Oak Park resident and a federal employee in the social services. He rates politicians and chooses who to vote for based on the consonance of their stands with his and their willingness to stand up for the individual citizen.

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