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Recess does not mean job is done

By By SONNY CALLAHAN
U.S. Representative
With the House of Representatives now in its summer recess, the halls of Washington have gotten much quieter as my colleagues and I have returned to our respective districts for the August recess work period.
The constant media coverage of the activities of Congress in our nation's capital often overshadows the other important roles your elected representatives play n that of advocates for those experiencing difficulties with agencies of the federal government.
In addition, my district office offers a number of other services which many of you may find useful in the weeks and months to come.  I would like to take this opportunity to fill you in on what I can do for you from my office here in south Alabama.
Cutting red tape
The most important role that I play for the constituents of the First Congressional District is helping you deal with the myriad of problems that may arise as a result of bureaucratic red tape.
During my 16 years in office, I have been contacted by literally thousands of individuals and families who have experienced some sort of problem with a federal agency.  These problems have run the gamut, ranging from difficulties in obtaining a refund from the Internal Revenue Service to problems in establishing eligibility for Social Security disability benefits.  I have tackled tasks as simple as ensuring that someone's address has been changed with the Department of Veterans Affairs to assisting a family in bringing a loved one to the United States from overseas.
Regardless of the size or complexity of these problems, my staff and I stand ready to assist you with cutting through the red tape and reaching what I hope will be a positive solution to your problems. 
While it is important to remember that I cannot make any agency decide a case in your favor, I can assure you I will do everything in my power to ensure that your case gets prompt and accurate attention from the agency involved.
If you or someone you know is having a problem that you feel requires my assistance, please don't hesitate to contact me. 
Due to the Privacy Act of 1974, I am required to have the written authorization of the person I will be assisting. My Mobile office keeps a large supply of Privacy Act release forms that I will be happy to forward to you to complete and return. You can also contact me by writing a letter explaining your problem, or by sending me an e-mail through my Internet home page. I will provide you with the contact addresses and phone numbers at the end of this column.
Other services I provide
In addition to the important task of intervening with the government on behalf of my constituents, there are also several other services that my district office provides.
When making plans to travel abroad, many people find there's not enough time to obtain a passport required for overseas travel.  My office can often help in expediting your passport request so you won't have to delay that important business trip or well-deserved vacation. You should always try and allow yourself plenty of time to make your travel arrangements. However, if you find yourself in a bind, please don't hesitate to pick up the phone and call my Mobile office, or send me a letter with the specifics regarding your plans.
My office also has available for purchase American flags that have been flown over the U.S. Capitol.  We often have several sizes available and are happy to provide them for you. Certain organizations can qualify to have one 3×5 flag donated to them each year, and my staff will be happy to provide you with this information, as well as the prices for each size flag.
Finally, for those who don't have the time or a way to get to Mobile to visit with my staff and me, a member of my staff travels through the district the first week of each month. This has proven to be a good way to provide the services of my office in the district and to make the assistance I offer as accessible as possible.  Please feel free to contact my office to obtain a schedule of these monthly visits and to find the location most convenient for you.
How to contact me
The services listed above are certainly just a small part of what I can do for you as your representative in Congress. However, if you are not sure whether your problem is one which I can address, or you are unsure where you need to direct your inquiry, I hope you will not hesitate to let me know.  I will certainly be glad to advise you of what individual or agency can best assist you.
I have set up several ways for you to contact me, and I hope you will feel free to use them whenever necessary.  My Mobile office can be reached by telephone at (800) 288-8721, and by facsimile at (251) 342-0404.
For those who prefer to send their inquiries through the mail, letters can be addressed to 1141 Montlimar Drive, Suite 3010, Mobile, Alabama 36609.
Finally, if you prefer to utilize the Internet to reach my office, my web address is www.house.gov/callahan.  In addition to the services listed above, this site contains a great deal of other useful information and links to informative sites.  It will be updated frequently, so be sure to check back often.
Until next week, take care and God Bless.