The Federal Diary gets lots of reader reaction via e-mail, snail mail and online posts. Some of it is fit to print. Occasionally, we give readers a chance to speak out by publishing their remarks, edited for clarity and length. You can speak out by sending your comments about issues covered in the Diary to firstname.lastname@example.org.
After a long career in the federal government, I think it is a matter of time before other agencies in the government suffer the same fate of the Department of Veterans Affairs. I am no stranger to metrics, as I wrote them for others and had to achieve them for my organization. What I found in the past several years was that instead of measuring what was really in the mission statement — what we should be doing — we measured what we could do or what we could count. The goal then became how to get to the right numbers so that we could be considered successful. Those that strived for outcome-based goals or stretch goals were considered naive.
Congress and the American people need to understand that the services they want and expect carry a price — just like the TV does that they buy. We deserve to respect, honor and provide for the veterans of this country, just as the Environmental Protection Agency needs to do what it takes to administer the Clean Air Act and just as the Affordable Care Act must be given the attention and the resources it needs to do what is contained in that law. But it cannot be done on the cheap. It is far too easy to throw stones when something is not working as hoped or the resources have been underestimated. Unfortunately the critics are louder than the people who are trying to do the job.
I left government discouraged that voices like mine were being ignored — but it was not without some sadness and regret that I left.
Ann Simeone, Washington, formerly with the Department of Homeland Security
I would like to add my voice to your piece regarding federal contributions to the Combined Federal Campaign. Many people such as myself simply do not give through the CFC because we want 100 percent of our donations to go to the charities of our choice. I learned 20 years ago that my donations through the CFC were reduced right off the top because the charity I wanted to give to was forced to go through the United Way to even be listed as a CFC charity. There is a CFC overhead that is not deducted from my donation if I give directly to my favorite charities. Therefore, I do not take part in the CFC campaign. I gave over $4,700 to charity in 2013, and I know that each and every organization received every penny of what I pledged.
Ryan Simmons, Ellicott City
I was delighted to see your column that gives tribute to federal employees and was surprised to see so many fresh, young faces! This is a wonderful trend, and I hope it continues. We are expected to lose a ton of experience and accumulated knowledge to retirement in the near future.
I hope this column and photo serve as recruitment material for our federal workforce. Pay alone is not going to cut it with today’s college grads coming out hugely in debt!
Helen Ganster, Leesburg
Your column about the IRS had particular relevance for me.
I recently received a notice from the IRS that I owed a fair amount of money in additional taxes for 2013. I called the 1-800 number to try and talk with someone about the notice (the IRS is incorrect in assessing me the additional taxes). I waited about 45 minutes before I got to talk with an actual person. He was very pleasant to deal with as I explained my situation. Unfortunately, he said he was unable to handle my case because he was not trained on the particular schedule at issue in the case. He expressed regret at not being able to address my problem and said he would make what he called a “tech referral” to someone who could possibly help me.
So your column on the consequences of cutting the IRS budget certainly has affected this taxpayer.
I encourage you to continue to buttonhole IRS officials and members of Congress to restore IRS funding to an acceptable level. I believe most taxpayers want to comply with the tax code, but we really do sometimes need help.
Joseph Lowry, Arlington
Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at wapo.st/JoeDavidson.