Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) announced the introduction of the Government Customer Service Improvement Act of 2013. The bipartisan legislation works to improve customer service delivery across federal agencies, and a companion bill was introduced in the House by U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Michael McCaul (R-TX). Millions of Americans depend on federal agencies for vital services, and delays in processing those requests often result in inconvenience, frustration and financial hardship. Passage of this legislation will make the federal agency customer service process both more transparent and efficient and will focus limited resources on improving front-line customer service functions.
"Citizens should expect federal agencies to deliver customer services at least as well as the private sector does, but this often is not the case," Senator Warner said. "Many of our military veterans still wait too long for critical medical services and benefits, and I've heard from Virginians waiting over 400 days for their full retirement benefits from the federal government. That simply is not acceptable."
"For companies operating in the private sector, bad customer service means reduced profits and the risk of failure," said Senator Johnson. "While federal agencies don't face that pressure, this bipartisan measure requires the development of customer service standards and performance measures at each agency. This is a common sense approach to help make government operations more responsive."
"Millions of American families encounter the federal government on a daily basis. They deserve first class customer service. When trying to navigate the bureaucracy and cut through the red tape, it is the job of our federal agencies to provide helpful answers in a professional and timely manner. This bill puts the taxpayer first," said Congressman Cuellar. "Too often we hear that Americans' are frustrated with government service. It is our responsibility to act when we hear that students are having difficulty with federal student loans or when seniors experience a delay in their retirement benefits. Every taxpayer, every day will benefit from this legislation."
The measure requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to set government-wide customer service standards to improve response times for citizen requests and government services. It holds the Chief Performance Officer at each agency responsible for improving customer service and it would also establish a specialized team to assist those agencies which consistently fail to meet customer service standards. In addition, the Government Customer Service Improvement Act of 2013 sets specific service improvement targets for the Office of Personnel Management, an agency which has experienced chronic backlogs in processing retirement benefits for federal employees. As of March 2013, OPM still has a backlog of more than 36,000 claims. In addition, customers who call OPM consistently experience busy signals and significant wait times. Senator Warner has specific interest in reducing the OPM backlog because Virginia is home to approximately 130,000 federal retirees.
Senator Warner is the Chairman of the Budget Committee's Government Performance Task Force and Senator Ron Johnson is also a Member of this bipartisan group reappointed today to increase the performance and accountability of federal agencies and programs.