Sgt. Major Mitchell Duvall wanted to dump thousands of dollars into the local economy, but didn't expect the Internal Revenue Service to stand in his way.
The federal government promised a $7,200 tax credit to the soon-to-be retiree for purchasing his first house. The IRS put him on hold for months, however, because Duvall said they found it suspect that he and his wife, Kate, asked for the refund to go to a different address than their home.
"It just annoyed me," the Turin resident said Friday. "It wasn't money we were throwing in our own pockets. It was immediately going out to contracts and the community. All locals were working on our house. The purpose of this great tax credit - we fit the bill."
Duvall, stressed about a pending deployment to Afghanistan with the issue still unresolved, called Rep. Bill Owens' office to see if the congressman would intervene.
"We weren't confident that the congressman's office was going to be able to do anything," the sergeant major said. "I mean, you don't walk into a government office thinking your going to be able to be taken care of, to be honest with you."
Duvall said Owens' team offered to help without building up false expectations. In less than four weeks, the new homeowner said the IRS sent him a check for $7,200 plus about four months interest.
"They took care of it in a legitimate way without any hassles," he said of the congressman's staff. "And they took the pressures and stresses off my family - which takes the stress off of me. And I'm grateful."
Duvall was just one of Owens' first-year success stories. The congressman announced this week that he helped get $1.097 million for those who sought his help cutting through the red tape during his first term.
A military veteran who fought the Veterans Affairs agency for six years got more than $72,000 in back benefits. A Bouckville man got $59,468 in retroactive Social Security benefits after the congressman called about the issue. A Gouverneur resident received more than $14,000 and a Morrisonville man got an additional $10,000 after Owens intervened on their behalf at the IRS.
Duvall said Owens' staff didn't care that he wasn't a Democrat or didn't vote for their boss in the last election. They just wanted to help.
"I do believe a congressman has a certain responsibility to his constituents no matter what political affiliation - and he lived up to it," the sergeant major said.
Owens is continuing his constituent outreach this week, when his staff holds mobile office hours Thursday in St. Lawrence County. Staff will be listening to issues from 9 a.m. to noon at the Massena Public Library and from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Waddington Hepburn Library.
The congressman also plans to hold at least one in-district town hall this spring, his spokesman, Sean Magers, has said. Owens also has offices in Watertown, Oneida, Plattsburgh and Washington, D.C. The tech-savvy can also find the congressman on Facebook and on Twitter.