Casework Issues

Active Military Services

My office can assist with problems concerning specialties, duty assignments, transfers, pay, medical treatment, recruitment or discharge, or obtaining medals or records. To begin the process you must fill out an authorization form, or send in a letter authorizing our office to assist you in the matter. The letter should contain:

  • Home of Record Address
  • Duty Station Address
  • Branch of Service
  • Service Number
  • Description of the Problem

In addition to the services offered through my District Office, free services related to service duty are provided by the GI Rights Hotline, 1-800-394-9554 and by the central committee for continuous objectors, 510-465-1617.

To request assistance electronically, please use the Online Casework Form, or call my District Office directly at 510-763-0370.

Department of Labor/ Workers' Compensation

If you are a federal employee and you have been hurt on the job, and you need help with Workers Compensation my District Office can be of assistance. You will need to provide a letter describing the problem including the claim number and date of injury. Please also indicate the nature of the complaint such as continuance of pay, scheduled award, return to work date, accommodation for light duty or rehab. It will also help to clarify the following:

  • Have you gone through your union or internal grievance and arbitration procedures?
  • Has your employing agency filled out their part of the paperwork or is the agency refuting the claim?
  • Is your condition temporary or permanent?
  • Have all the appropriate medical reports been submitted?

To request assistance electronically, please use the Online Casework Form, or call my District Office directly at 510-763-0370.

You can get a status update on your claim by calling the Department of Workers Compensation District Office at 415-625-7500 and giving your case file number.

information on the U.S. Department of Labor Employment Benefits, please check www.dol.gov/ebsa.

Federal Employee Assistance

My office can help federal employees who have a problem with their annuity or their medical plan, or if the survivor of an annuitant needs help with reporting a death, obtaining survivors benefits or life insurance, I will need a letter of authorization which describes the problem and includes the CSA or CSF file number. I would send your inquiry either to the Congressional Inquiry Unit in Washington, DC or in Boyers, PA.

For issues regarding missed checks, an explanation of benefits, or the death of a retiree, you can call the Office of Personnel Management toll free at 1-888-767-6738 or online at www.opm.gov.

To request assistance electronically, please use the Online Casework Form, or call my District Office directly at 510-763-0370.

Housing

If a constituent has an issue with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or a local housing agency my District Office may be able to assist you. If you feel that your efforts to resolve the problem have been unproductive, please contact my office. While our jurisdiction is over federal agencies such as HUD, my staff will consider each case on an individual basis. We aim to facilitate communication between our constituents and government housing agencies.

To open a case, please send a letter with your contact information. My office may be able to write a letter to the federal agency and help relay constituent concerns.

To request assistance electronically, please use the Online Casework Form, or call my District Office directly at 510-763-0370.

Please also visit the Avoid Home Foreclosure Page for tips and resources that can help you avert the loss of your home.

Department of Housing and Urban Development
To contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development, please visit them online at www.HUD.gov or call (202) 708-1112. HUD’s mission is to increase homeownership, support community development and increase access to affordable housing free from discrimination.

To find out more about HUD-approved housing counseling agencies and their services, please visit www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hcs.cfm or call toll free (800) 569-4287 on weekdays between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time). The same number can give you an automated referral to the three housing counseling agencies located closest to you.

Immigration, Citizenship, Travel

How My Office Can Help
My office can assist constituents with immigration and citizenship applications already in progress. However, we cannot initiate an application on behalf of constituents.

With a process as lengthy as the immigration process, there’s lots of time for things to go wrong. I do not have the authority to require that a specific application or petition be considered before those which were filed earlier, but I can help keep your petition on the right track. Here are some examples of problems for which my District Office can offer assistance:

  • Lost files that need to be reconstructed.
  • Original documents lost from files.
  • Change of address not reported to INS.
  • Change of address not recorded by INS.
  • Files not transferred or files lost during transfer when someone has changed address from one service area to another.
  • Applications that are beyond normal processing time.
  • Petitions that need to be upgraded.
  • Age-out situations (beneficiary about to turn age 21).

To request assistance electronically, please use the Online Casework Form, or call my District Office directly at 510-763-0370.

External Citizenship and Immigration Resources
You can initiate an immigration or citizenship application by contacting United States Citizenship and Immigration Services online at www.uscis.gov or by calling 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833).

In addition, free services are provided by local community agencies such as:

Spanish Speaking Citizen's Foundation
1470 Fruitvale Avenue
Oakland, CA 94601
Phone: 510-261-7839

Please call my District Office at 510-763-0370 and the staffer handling this issue can provide you with more information on local resources at your disposal.

Application Delays
Many constituents contact my office because of delays in their immigration applications. It is important to understand that the naturalization process can take two years, sometimes more. This backlog is caused by the sheer number of applicants in queue, and by the complexity of the process itself. Before the process is complete, your file will pass through many hands at several locations. The process is lengthy in the simplest of applications, yet there are other factors which can cause even further delays. Some of them are:

Change of address
If you move and do not notify the INS of your change of address, you will not receive important notices from the INS. Not responding to the notices can cause your file to be closed.

Moving
If you happen to move from one INS servicing area to another, your file will have to be transferred to a location closer to your current address. If that office has a longer backlog, your file will get stuck in it.

Transferring files
Sometimes it takes an extraordinarily long time for one INS office to transfer a file to another office.

Lost files
There are special search procedures with mandatory waiting times in place. Sometimes files must be reconstructed.

Rejected or expired prints
It can take several months for fingerprint clearance to come back from the FBI. If your prints are rejected (because they are unreadable) you will be asked to submit new prints. If your prints expire because the process is taking too long (prints have a lifetime of 15 months), you will also have to submit a new set of prints and wait for clearance again.

Criminal record
If you have arrests or convictions that show up on your background check, you will be asked for documentation regarding any court disposition. If you have a police record of any kind, it would be wise to have all documentation readily available.

Failing citizenship test
If you do not pass the citizenship exam, you may have to be retested at a later date.

FAQ

Can your office expedite my application?

Many people ask to have their applications pending at the INS to be "expedited." Sheer volume accounts for much of the backlog at the INS.

My office does not have the authority to require that a specific application or petition be considered before those which were filed earlier. The various INS offices keep my office informed of the current backlog for processing the various applications. My District Office can inform you of the normal processing time. If your application is pending beyond the normal processing time, I will be happy to make an inquiry on your behalf.

Many people ask to have their immigrant visas pending at the National Visa Center or American Consulates abroad "expedited." Immigrant visa applications for preference categories must by law and regulation be processed in strict chronological order according to the priority date. There is no provision in immigration law which would allow processing of an immigrant visa out of turn even for humanitarian reasons. The Department of State publishes a monthly Visa Bulletin which lists the date for which the consulates are currently issuing visas. The same information is available on a recorded message at (202) 663-1541. If your relative’s priority date is beyond the cut off date of the State Department, I will be happy to make an inquiry on your behalf.

Can you help with Visitor Visas?

My office does not have the authority to grant a visitor a visa and I cannot overrule a decision made by a consular officer. My office can only pass along information. Immigration law mandates that all nonimmigrant visa applicants are presumed to be intending immigrants unless they can establish otherwise to the satisfaction of the interviewing consular officer. The burden of proof is upon the applicants to convince the State Department that they have no intention of staying in the United States beyond the duration of the time period covered by their visa and that they have the financial resources to undertake the travel to the US.

Naturalization Process
Initial Processing
The application is received by the INS Service Center in Laguna Niguel, CA. The INS Service Center:

  • Cashes your check. (Keep your negotiated check. It is an important proof of filing.)
  • Enters your application information on their computer system.
  • Requests your permanent file from the appropriate INS

IRS & Taxes

IRS problems generally fall into two categories: the IRS owes you money or they believe you owe them money.

Due to the Privacy Act, all inquiries that I send to the IRS Taxpayer Advocate on your behalf must include written authorization. The IRS cannot give me a response if your letter is addressed to: Dear Congressman, Dear Sir, or To Whom It May Concern. The letter must address me specifically by name (i.e. Congresswoman Barbara Lee). It must also include your social security or EIN number, the tax years that are involved, and a description of the problem.

Please note that a congressional inquiry will not stop interest and penalties from accruing while an inquiry is pending.

To request assistance electronically, please use the Online Casework Form, or call my District Office directly at 510-763-0370.

You can find forms and answers to tax questions by going to the Internal Revenues Service website at www.irs.gov, or by calling 1-800-829-1040 for assistance in English and Spanish.

In addition, free tax preparation services are offered by local community agencies in the district. For more information please contact my District Office or by dialing 2-1-1 and asking to be referred to a free tax assistance orgranization in your area.

Medicare Benefits

If your problem involves eligibility for Medicare or premium payments, I can contact the Social Security Administration on your behalf.

If your problem involves coverage for specific procedures or non-payment of claims submitted to Medicare, I can send an inquiry to the Part A or Part B carrier on your behalf. In your form of authorization, please include the date(s) of service, the service provider, the amount charged, and your social security number along with a description of the problem.

To request assistance from my office electronically, please use the Online Casework Form, or call my District Office directly at 510-763-0370.

You can initiate an application to recieve Medicare benefits by contacting Medicare online at www.medicare.gov or by calling 1-800-633-4227.

In addition, there are several non-profit, volunteer-based programs in the community that provide free assistance to seniors, disabled people, and their families to help understand and navigate the Medicare system.

California Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) Legal Assistance for Seniors
Phone: 1-800-434-0222 or (510) 839-0393
Fax: (510) 987-7399
464 7th St
Oakland, CA 94607

Benefits CheckUp
This site helps users find all the Medicare and private drug discount cards for which they may be eligible.
www.benefitscheckup.org

Social Security

How My Office Can Help
My office provides support to constituents of the district who are applying for social security benefits or appealing a social security decision.

To request assistance from my office electronically, please use the Online Casework Form, or call my District Office directly at 510-763-0370.

To initiate an application to receive Social Security benefits, you can contact the Social Security Administration online at www.ssa.gov or by calling 1-800-772-1213.

PLEASE NOTE: If your claim is for disability (Social Security or SSI), a medical determination needs to be made. I do not have the authority to influence that decision or the medical expertise to convince them that someone is disabled. I can help in the area of assuring that your claim receives timely and due process, so please let me know if you feel this kind of inquiry is needed.

FAQ

“What is the difference between the various benefits programs?”

Social Security Retirement Benefits
Retirement Benefits are payable to a retired, fully insured workers as young as 62 years of age. Additional benefits may be available to family members. These benefits are based on the wage earners earnings record. The wage earner must have worked and paid into the social security system a certain number of quarters. A disabled person must have worked under social security five out of the last ten years immediately preceding the onset of the person's disability. Social Security defines disability as unable to perform any substantial gainful employment for 12 months or longer.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
This public assistance program is based on proof of financial need AND proof that the claimant is blind, over age 65, or disabled. To avoid overpayment problems, the SSI recipient should always be aware of the kinds of changes that must be reported to the SSI program; changes in income, work activity, medical condition, and living arrangements.

Supplemental Social Security
This insurance is for disabled children. Eligibility depends upon income and resources of the disabled child and the parents or guardians with whom he or she lives.

Social Security Disability
These monthly benefits are payable to an insured person who is under the age of 65 and who is unable to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA) because of medically determinable physical or mental impairment that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period no less than 12 months or end in death.

“Who can help me understand this process?”

If you need help finding the whereabouts of your file, the status of your claim, finding missing payments, getting benefit payments started, retroactive payments, getting an explanation in plain English, untangling a difficult computation question, or finding out what recourse you have available to you, contact my District Office.

“Where can I find my Social Security file?”

At any given time, your file might be at the local social security office, at one of the SSA program service centers around the country (Richmond, Chicago, New York, etc.), at the Office of Disability Operations in Baltimore, at the state Disability Determination Service (if a disability decision is pending), at the Office of Hearings and Appeals, or at the Appeals Council. Generally, your best point of contact for problems or status of your claim is the local office. However, if your claim is pending a disability determination, you can contact the disability analyst handling your claim at the Disability Determination Service. Sometimes the delay could be caused by a missing medical report which you could help pry loose from your doctor or hospital.

“What do I do if I have an overpayment that I cannot afford to pay back?”

If SSA or the SSI program notifies you that you have an overpayment, you can ask for a waiver of the overpayment on two conditions:

The overpayment was not your fault AND You cannot meet you necessary living expenses if you pay it back.

If an overpayment must be recovered, you should be aware that you do not have to pay it back all at once. You can negotiate a monthly partial payment plan with the SSA.

“What if I do not agree with a decision?”

If your initial claim is denied or if you disagree with a determination of the Social Security Administration, there is a three-step appeals process of which you would be notified. In each situation, you must have to appeal the prior adverse decision within 60 days.

Reconsideration
Based on your request for reconsideration, a different person (from the person who made the original decision) would review your claim and original decision.

Hearing
If you disagree with a reconsideration decision, you can request a hearing. Your file would be sent to the Office of Hearings and Appeals for scheduling with an Administrative Law Judge. At the hearing, you would be able to explain your case to the judge who will be making the decision.

Appeal
If you dispute the decision of the Administrative Law Judge, you can appeal that decision to the Appeals Council in Virginia.

If you have been denied at each of these administrative levels of appeal, your final recourse would be to sue the SSA in court.

Veterans

As the daughter of a veteran, I am committed to ensuring that our veterans are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, and that our government honors their service and sacrifices not just in words, but in deeds.

I believe we must honor our moral obligation to our veterans and returning soldiers by providing the health care, pensions and benefits that they deserve. I have consistently fought to make sure that veterans get the health care, disability benefits and spousal benefits they earned and have worked to eliminate the back log of disability and other benefit claims that plague the system today.

How My Office Can Help
My office can assist with problems concerning Veteran’s Benefits. We frequently hear from constituents who need help finding out the status of their claims. My office can provide information about constituent’s claims, survivor benefits, medical treatment, medals, burials, and death benefits.

If you are a constituent of the 9th Congressional District and require direct assistance with receiving your federal veteran's benefits, please fill out the Online Casework Form, or contact the District Office in Oakland at 510-763-0370.

In addition, information and online applications for Veteran’s Benefits are available on the Veterans Affairs website, www.va.gov

Bay Area Veterans' Resources

Important Phone Numbers

VA Benefits
1-800-827-1000

Headstone and Markers
1-800-697-6947

Health Benefits
1-877-222-8387

Gulf War & Agent Orange
1-800-749-8387

Education Benefits
1-888-442-4551

Health Eligibility Center
1644 Tullie Circle
Atlanta , GA 30329-2303
404-235-1257 or 1-800-92

Life Insurance
1-800-669-8477

Debt Management
1-800-827-0648

Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD)
1-800-733-8387

Web Resources