Roe staffers assist constituents

Published 10:10 am Thursday, January 22, 2015

When it comes to serving your constituents, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe believes you first have to listen to their concerns.
For Roe, that means having his staff regularly meet with people on the home front while he is in Washington representing them.
“We really pride ourselves on trying to help our constituents,” Roe said. “That’s the part of the job I really do like ­— getting to help people.”
Each month, members of Roe’s staff travel to each of the counties in the district and meet with residents to help them on a variety of issues. For some, this means helping them apply for Social Security disability benefits; for others, it means helping them to get their veterans benefits.
“We’ve even got someone who works full time just trying to help people navigate the Affordable Care Act,” Roe said. “While we don’t necessarily agree with it, it is the law and we need to help people with it.”
For Roe, part of his service to those he represents is making sure that he and his staff are available to help them when they need it.
“I remember when I first became a doctor, an older doctor told me if you want to be good at your job, you have to have the three A’s,” Roe said. “I asked him what the three A’s were, and he said ‘availability, affability and ability.’”
On Wednesday, two of Roe’s staff members — John Teague and Bill Darden — were on hand to meet with constituents at the Carter County Courthouse. When the field office opened, a handful of residents were on hand to speak with staffers.
One of those waiting was Carroll Jones, a Vietnam veteran who said he was seeking help in obtaining proper medical treatment through the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center for his post traumatic stress disorder.
“They keep denying me, even though they say I have (PTSD),” Jones said, adding that 40 percent of his disabilities are service-connected.
Jones moved to Elizabethton two years ago from California and said he is no stranger to having to fight for his medical care.
“The VA out there’s plan was to delay, deny and hope you die,” he said. “Here the VA is a lot better, but there are just some things they ignore.”
Dorothy and Daniel Orellana also were among those waiting to be seen by the staff members.
“We’re here for him to help us fill out some paperwork and take care of a problem we have,” Dorothy Orellana said.
David Austin met with Darden seeking assistance with a federal program.
“We don’t make any promises as to what we can do, but we do try to get some answers for them,” Darden said.
Roe’s staff members assist constituents with a variety of issues related to federal programs or benefits, Darden said. For state issues, the constituents are referred to the appropriate state agency or official, he said.
The constituents are seen one-on-one in a private room, Teague said.
Some months, no one shows up asking for assistance, Teague said, while other times, 10 or 12 people may come to one of the field office sessions.
“I’ve been here until 6 or 6:30 at night seeing people still in line,” Teague said. “We don’t do appointments. We see them on a first come, first served basis and stay until we’ve seen them all.”
The next field office session in Carter County is Feb. 18 at 2 p.m.

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