Congress passed a bill in 2019 that would make it easier for lawmakers to help voters obtain favors from federal agencies.
Nearly two and a half years after the law was signed, senior members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee are asking the agencies what steps they have taken to make the legislation’s goals a reality.
The Chair of the Governmental Operations Subcommittee, Jerry Connolly (D-Va.) and MD Judy Hayes (Republic-GA.) sent a letter to five agencies Wednesday, asking them about the steps they have taken to implement the creation of a streamlined advanced electronic services component (issues) law.
The lawmakers sent copies of their letter to the IRS, Social Security Administration, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The CASES Act builds on several legislation passed by Congress in recent years aimed at bringing more public-facing government services online, and it will help agencies streamline these requests after dealing with a backlog in answering mail and phone calls from the public.
“Navigating these federal services can be overwhelming and stressful, so voters often seek help from members of Congress,” Connolly and Hayes write.
The legislation updates the 47-year-old privacy law by requiring agencies to accept digital signatures of privacy authorization forms that voters must submit before a member of Congress can contact agencies on their behalf.
The Office of Management and Budget, under the CASES Act, has issued guidelines requiring agencies to accept digital privacy authorization forms and to consider remote identity authentication capabilities by November 2021.
Prior to the CASES Act, voters had to fax, scan or email their representative authorizing their Office of Congress to contact any federal agency on their behalf.
Connolly and Hess said the case law goals are aligned with many of the Biden administration’s priorities in a recent executive order on improving customer experience across agencies.
“If done correctly, the simplified implementation of the CASES Act will reduce the burden on agencies, social workers and the public,” the lawmakers wrote.
OMB’s guidelines give agencies flexibility to implement these capabilities on their own, but Connolly and Hice ask agencies if they plan to use Login.gov, a common digital identity service operated by the General Services Administration, or a commercial solution.
The legislators asked the agencies how they tested their identity verification capabilities to ensure that the service was “easy to use, intuitive, and built on a customer-centric design,” as well as how other agencies could verify the identity of the component. If they are unable or unwilling to provide their personally identifiable information online.
The OMB guidelines require agencies to “provide a digital service option to ensure that individuals have the ability to request digital access to, or consent to, disclosure of their records.”
Lawmakers are questioning how digital mandate will meet some of the customer experience goals on the president’s administration agenda, such as reducing the administrative burden, addressing inequalities, and simplifying social work.
The OMB Guidelines simplify aspects of privacy law, but also direct agencies to “ensure that they limit the collection of personally identifiable information to the minimum that is pertinent and directly necessary for this purpose.”
Connolly and Hayes asked the agencies what steps they have taken to reduce the amount of personally identifiable information they need to verify the identity of a component, and whether they have explored alternatives to asking for an individual’s Social Security number.