The term “casework” refers to assistance provided by members of Congress to constituents who need help while filing a grievance with the federal government or a federal agency.
In a lot of cases, constituents don’t know how to get help if they have an issue relating to federal government services or a problem with federal programs. Casework gives these constituents a chance to seek that help from their representatives in Washington.
Casework is an extensive and all-encompassing term that covers a lot of ground:
Each year, thousands of constituents turn to Members of Congress with a wide range of requests, from the simple to the complex.
Members and their staffs help constituents deal with administrative agencies by acting as facilitators, ombudsmen, and, in some cases, advocates.
In addition to serving individual constituents, some congressional offices also consider as casework liaison activities between the federal government and local governments, businesses, communities, and nonprofit organizations.
At its core, casework is about good government.
In 2016, the MinnPost described casework as Congress’ most important function (that almost no one uses): “An enormous amount of time, effort, and resources flows toward casework, and many members of Congress will tell you that helping constituents is their most important responsibility.”
A 2017 report issued by Congressional Research Service highlighted some areas which see the most frequent use of casework:
Tracking a misdirected benefits payment; filling out a government form; applying for Social Security, veterans’, education, and other federal benefits, explaining government activities or decisions; applying to a military service academy; seeking relief from a federal administrative decision; and seeking assistance for those immigrating to the United States or applying for U.S. citizenship.
Of course, casework only goes so far. As explained by the New York Times:
Caseworkers are wary of promising too much on this front. They are not supposed to talk to your lender; they can only speak to its regulator, often the comptroller of the currency.
And they will usually do so only if they believe a legitimate question has gone unanswered.
As Congress Foundation points out, Congress has its ways of making sure a constituents request for casework is legitimate:
Though many constituents come to their congressional office to ask for legitimate help with an agency issue, there are plenty of inquiries that are not serious or require a caseworker to step in.
Asking constituents to sign a Privacy Release Form is a professional way a caseworker can ensure a constituent is serious about their problem and willing to provide the necessary information to pursue a solution.
Use of “Casework” in a sentence
- Casework in a congressional office involves handling constituent requests for assistance with issues related to government services.
- A casework team is responsible for managing these requests and working to resolve them.
- Casework process could be time consuming but it is an important part of the office’s role in ensuring that the constituents’ concerns are addressed.
Taegan Goddard is the creator of the Political Dictionary.
Goddard spent more than a decade on Wall Street as managing director and chief operating officer of a prominent investment firm in New York City. Previously, he also served as a policy adviser to a U.S. Senator and Governor.
Goddard is also co-author of You Won – Now What?: How Americans Can Make Democracy Work from City Hall to the White House, a political management book hailed by prominent journalists and politicians from both parties.
His essays on politics and public policy have appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines across the country.
Goddard earned degrees from Vassar College and Harvard University.
He lives in New York with his wife and three sons.