Legal Meets Practical: Accessible Solutions

Government: “I Don’t Have to Waste Your Time. But I Will.”

Everyone who deals with the federal government encounters red tape. It exists in every form – from the paperwork veterans complete to receive the benefits to which they are entitled, to the hoops we have to jump through to obtain federal certifications for our business. But I have to say – today it’s the small stuff that’s getting to me.

Many of those who follow this blog have been doing so for quite some time, so I feel comfortable in disclosing a fact that’s personal – I had a baby girl last November. Brooke has just begun to crawl, and everything goes in the mouth, so this legal blog has not been posted every week. It’s a matter of prioritizing, although I do enjoy writing this blog.

As a busy working mother, today I was annoyed to see that my email is having server issues. It has nothing to do with my account, which I suspected upon multiple calls to Godaddy, all of which were answered with a busy signal to indicate a widespread issue. I then went on their Twitter account and found this:

Thank you! I’m not happy that my email is down, but considering this has happened once before, a year ago, I can live with the minor inconvenience today. And by posting this message front and center, Godaddy has saved probably thousands of its clients from calling in, stressing about whether this malfunction is their unique problem.

Meanwhile, there’s the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ (VA) Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE). The CVE issues the verifications (certifications) for veteran-owned companies to pursue set-aside work with the VA, and I deal with these folks a lot.

Two weekends ago, I was on my computer, and I received ten emails from the CVE in succession. All of them contained a boilerplate message that someone had been removed as a representative from the business’ account. (Since I help with verifications, I’m listed on a number of accounts). It wasn’t me – it was the business owner, who would have received the same message. Immediately, I forwarded the message to each owner to tell them it was surely a glitch and that I hadn’t done this but would check on it for them. (I did this right away because I didn’t want them thinking I’d taken them off their own account!).

That week, I ended up talking to the help desk and realized that the message was sent in error – hundreds had been sent (that’s probably a conservative estimate), but no one had actually been removed from their VA account. Of course, no one would know this unless they tried logging in, and why would they do so if they thought they’d been removed? The CVE Helpdesk person noted that “most business owners had already called in” by that point.

If the CVE knew that hundreds of business owners would think they’d been removed from their own accounts, and would inevitably be calling in about this, jamming up the Helpdesk line (and making the VA’s life harder, too), why on earth couldn’t they put a note of the error on the wesbite? This isn’t as bad as the time a huge glitch sent out emails telling businesses they’d been booted from the program, but it’s still a stressful experience. And unnecessary too, given that the business owners hadn’t even been removed! Instead, the CVE did nothing, and likely collective days were wasted when adding up all the time spent by veterans trying to figure out what happened and Helpdesk folk fielding their phone calls.

I understand this is the government we’re talking about, but what kind of red tape has to be cut through to post something simple on the website? And if not the website, on Twitter or LinkedIn? (I checked both and did not see anything about the emails sent in error). Small business owners, myself included, have many tasks cluttering their day, and it’s frustrating to see how many hours were wasted when a quick post (or what about a follow-up boilerplate email?) could have saved so much time.

I know we’re dealing with the government, but is it red tape causing issues like these, or something else?

What is a frustrating, avoidable (but not) experience you’ve had with the government?

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One Response to “Government: “I Don’t Have to Waste Your Time. But I Will.””

  1. What? Common sense? GASP!! How dare you suggest that! LOL

    It would be interesting to see what a true outsider could do to fix things, if they removed the road blocks.

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