When it comes to explaining themselves to you plain, understandable language, as required by law, the Department of Agriculture got "As" and "Bs" but the Department of Veterans Affairs got two dismal "Fs" on their first Plain Writing Act Report Card.
Issued by the non-profit, non-partisan Center for Plain Language, the Plain Writing Act Report Card grades 12 executive branch federal agencies on how well - or poorly -- they have implemented the requirements of the Plain Writing Act of 2010.
Enacted as part of President Obama's Open Government Initiative, the Plain Writing Act requires the federal agencies to explain their programs, policies and procedures to taxpayers in "clear, concise, and well-organized" writing.
Each agency is given two grades on the Report Card. The first grade evaluates how well the agency has done in complying with the act's basic requirements. The second grade evaluates the agency's progress in activities related to the act, such as training, converting existing documents to plain writing and creating a plain writing plan.
Some of the "standout" scores from the government's first Plain Writing Report Card included: Department of Agriculture -- A/B; Veterans Affairs -- F/F; Homeland Security - D/D; Department of Justice - C/D; and the Environmental Protection Agency - C/F.
The Department of Veterans Affairs was the only department to receive an F in basic compliance with the Plain Writing Act.
"Unless federal agencies are held accountable, they won't implement the changes required by the Plain Writing Act," said U.S. Rep Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), sponsor of the Plain Writing Act in a press release. "The mixed results of the first-ever Plain Language Report Card show that we still have a long way to go to make government forms and documents simpler and easier for taxpayers to understand. Some federal agencies have embraced the Plain Writing Act, and others haven't. Until these grades are all A-plus, we're going to keep holding bureaucrats' feet to the fire."
What About the IRS? Notably, neither the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) nor the Treasury Department were graded on their compliance with the Plain Writing Act. However, in January 2011, the U.S. Taxpayer Advocate Service told Congress that the complexity of tax code and tax forms continues to be, "The most serious problem facing taxpayers."