Amid gridlock, lawmakers focus on constituent woes

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LAS VEGAS (AP) - Brian Snoddy was at his wit’s end.

Suffering from a spinal cord injury, uninsured, his medical bills piling up, he was in danger of losing his Las Vegas house and he was sitting in the dark because he couldn’t afford to pay his power bills.

His life had become welfare, food stamps and collecting cans for recycling to feed himself when his neurological tremors weren’t too bad. To make matters worse, Social Security had over the course of two years repeatedly denied his disability claim.

“It crushed me and my dreams,” said Snoddy, 45, who had traveled the world working on private yachts until his 2010 injury handling an air conditioning line cost him his health and his job.

At his lowest moment, someone suggested he call his congressman to get help.

“I said, ‘That’s so crazy it might work,’?” he recalled in an interview.

Ten weeks after he contacted the office of U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., the congresswoman called with good news: he not only qualifies as disabled, but Social Security would cut him a $53,537.90 check for back benefits. Now, he gets $1,900 a month from Social Security for his disability, and he’s on Medicare.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Snoddy said. “I have a whole new-found faith in the political system.”

DOING MORE AT HOME

With Washington suffering from political gridlock, Nevada’s congressional delegation has been focusing more on constituent services - the official term for helping people like Snoddy who have problems with federal agencies - than on pushing legislation. The top issues the state’s two senators and four members of Congress deal with involve veterans, immigration, housing and Social Security. But anything can come up.

Titus tells of a time when she was a state senator and got a call from a constituent whose cat was stuck up a tree. Titus sent her husband, Tom, and a ladder to the rescue.

“You never know what’s going to walk through the door,” said Titus, who represents the 1st Congressional District centered in urban Las Vegas. “When Congress is doing so little in terms of moving legislation, we want to make sure we’re doing more for people at home.”

U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., said serving constituents across seven counties in his Southern Nevada district is the most satisfying part of his job. He was near tears recently when he introduced a young man whose abused mother his office helped to save from deportation.

Bryan Rivera, 20, had told his story to Horsford and two other members of Congress during a public hearing in Las Vegas on immigration. He said his mother, Thelma Martinez Soto, 49, had been held by immigration authorities in Henderson for four weeks and was going to be deported. Her ex-husband had turned her in after she complained he wasn’t paying back child support. Horsford and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., intervened, and the mother was released within a day under a legal provision that lets immigrants living in the country illegally who are victims of domestic abuse remain in the United States.

“His story just moved me,” Horsford said.

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