Constituent Services: What Your Members of Congress Can Do For You

What Your Senators and Representatives Can Do for You

Speaker of the House swearing in new members of the US Congress
Speaker of the House Swears in New Members of Congress. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

While they may not always vote the way you think they should, the members of the U.S. Congress from your state or congressional district - Senators and Representatives -- can and will do some very useful things known as "constituent services" for you.

While most can be requested or arranged for through your Senator’s or Representative’s website, these and other services can be requested in a personal letter or in a face-to-face meeting with your members of Congress.

 

Get a Flag Flown Over the Capitol

U.S. flags that have actually been flown over the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., can be ordered from all senators and representatives. Flags are available in sizes ranging from 3'x5' to 5'x8' and cost from about $17.00 to about $28.00. You can request a specific date, like a birthday or anniversary, on which you want your flag flown. Your flag will come with a presentation-quality certificate from the Architect of the Capitol certifying that your flag was flown over the Capitol. If you specify that the flag should be flown to commemorate a special event, the certificate will also note that event. The flags are of high quality, with embroidered stars and individually sewn stripes.

Be sure to order your flag at least 4 weeks before the date you want it flown over the Capitol, and then allow about 4- to 6-weeks for delivery. Most, if not all members of Congress now provide online forms for ordering flags on their websites, but you can still order them by good old U.S. mail if you prefer.

Demand for flags tends to go up around special occasions like July 4, national elections, or the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, so delivery might take a little longer.

Get Nominated to a U.S. Military Service Academy

Each U.S. senator and representative is permitted to nominate candidates for appointment to four U.S. service academies.

These schools are the U.S. Military Academy (West Point), the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. You can also get more information on service academy nominations by reading the CRS report Congressional Nominations to U.S. Service Academies (.pdf)

Plan Your Visit to Washington, D.C.

Your members of Congress know their way around Washington, D.C., and they can help you enjoy a great visit. Many members will even help you book visits to D.C. landmarks like the White House, the Library of Congress and the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. They can also direct you to tours you can book yourself including, the U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court, and Washington Monument. Most members of Congress also provide web pages filled with information of importance to D.C. visitors including points of interest, airport and subway information, entertainment, and more. In addition, you can schedule a visit with your senator or representative, if they are in D.C. during your visit.

Get Information on Grants

Remembering that very few federal grants are available to individuals, your senators and representatives are well equipped to provide information on grants.

They can help you or your organization with information on funding availability, grant eligibility, small business assistance, student loans, non-grant sources of federal aid and much more.

Get a Special Greeting Card

Last but far from least, you can request a very nice, personalized greeting card from your senator or representative commemorating special events like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations or other life achievements. Many members of Congress now provide online forms for ordering greetings and most allow you to order greetings by phone or fax.

Help With a Federal Agency

Helping citizens navigate the complex federal agency system is part of the job for U.S. Senators and Representatives. Their offices may be able to help if you are having trouble working with the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the IRS or any other federal agency.