Tag Archives: USPS Disability

Postal Workers Get a Raise, Less Benefits

postalA new labor contract has formally been agreed to this week that will give more than 200,000 Postal employees a raise. However, those same employees will see a decrease in benefits as well.

The National Association of Letter Carriers, representing 213,000 city mailmen across the country, ratified an agreement it struck with USPS management, to avoid binding arbitration.  NALC members voted 94 percent to 6 percent to accept the contract.

This agreement takes effect retroactively on May 21, 2016, continuing through to September 20, 2019. All city carriers will receive a 1.2 percent pay raise retroactive to November 26, 2016, and 1.3 percent increase effective November 25, 2017. Those on the second level of the 2-grade pay scale will receive a 2.1 percent raise in 2018.

Employees will also receive a series of seven cost of living adjustments throughout the life of the contract.

The non-career employees represented by NALC will see a boost as well. The substitute carriers will receive payments adding up to a dollar per hour over the course of their first year at the Postal Service. They will also earn more generous wage increase than their career counterparts.

The USPS will also start converting non-career employees for at least 30 months to career positions. Those working as letter carriers for at least six years are now exempt from any potential layoffs during the duration of the contract, which also means their work can’t be outsourced.

There is, however, a setback in this agreement; health care plans. The USPS is lowering its contribution toward employee health care plans by three percent through 2019. Even with this, the USPS will pay a maximum of 76 percent of any given plan, while the top contribution of other agencies caps at 75 percent.

A Postal Service spokeswoman called this agreement a win for all parties. It “addresses important financial and operational considerations of the Postal Service, serves interests of the American public, and is fair to our employees,” she said.

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Common Injuries for Postal Workers

injuries

Any federal employee can get hurt or develop an illness while working. However, it seems postal workers are more likely to become injured or ill while working than other federal workers. This post will look at some of the most common injuries or illnesses that affect postal workers; dog bites, falls, car accidents, repetitive motion, and mailing hazardous material.

Letter or Postal Carrier

These carriers deliver the mail in any weather; rain, snow, sleet, wind, heat, and extreme cold. Also, their route may require them to walk 10-15 miles per day. Both city and rural letter carriers carry mailbags weighing up to 35 pounds; however, rural carriers drive much more than city carriers. They both must load and unload trays and containers that may weigh up to 70 pounds.

injuriesCar accidents

This is a no brainer. A car accident can happen at any moment on any given day. Postal workers can sustain mild or life-threatening injuries due to one. Of course, this can lead to being out of work for long periods of time and being unable to perform essential job duties. Slick road conditions from rain and ice can play a part as well.

injuriesSlips and Falls

Because letter carriers deliver mail in any type of weather, a slip or fall is extremely common. Walking on sidewalks and up and down stairs that haven’t been cleared of snow makes for very slippery and unsafe conditions. Also, poor maintenance on sidewalks and stairs alike can cause falls and trips, especially if covered up by snow.

Repetitive Motion Injuriesinjuries

Doing the same movement repeatedly, in any job, can cause injuries to that part of the body. This is especially true with mail carriers who “case their route” before heading out and delivering mail. Carrying a heavy mail bag on the same shoulder and walking the same mail route day after day are examples of repetitive motions that can be harmful.

injuriesDog Bites

The USPS says that dog attacks rose 14 percent in 2015 (the most recent data available) up to 6,549. One reason for this increase may be that there was an increase in packages delivered; 4.5 billion in 2015 up from 3.3 billion in 2011. In an effort to keep up with UPS and FedEx, the USPS shifted their service to weekends and evenings when more people are home and able to sign for their orders. This increased the odds of dog attacks.

Most carriers carry “Back Off”—a dog repellant made especially for postal workers, with cayenne pepper extract.

Here is a list of the top cities with the most dog attacks in 2015.

injuriesHazardous Material

While less common, handling packages containing hazardous material can be very dangerous for postal workers. Illness, or even death, can occur. We saw that during the Anthrax attacks in 2001.

Just recently, the USPS was fined over $342 thousand for exposing MD postal workers to bloodborne pathogens. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) responded to employee complaints that they were exposed to blood and other potentially infectious bodily fluids while handling packages. These packages were labeled as containing biological infectious materials.

 

Mail Clerks/Handlers

Repetitive stress from sorting mail is a common injury for these workers. They spend most of their day doing that. Lifting heavy boxes and pushing heavy containers around causes injuries to them as well.

Postal workers have one of the highest probabilities of becoming injured or ill because of their job. They are also the largest agency that we work with. We have helped countless postal workers with their federal disability retirement cases. If you are a postal worker who can no longer perform your job duties, please don’t hesitate to call us at 877-226-2723, or fill out this inquiry form, and find out how we can help you!

To read more about these injuries, click on the link below.

Common Causes of Injuries for Postal Workers

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Elimination of USPS Pre-Funding

pre-fundingUnions are encouraging that the Postal Service pre-funding requirement be eliminated altogether. Initially, in 2006, the Postal Service pre-funded retiree health benefits for 10 years. That limit quickly rose to 40 years. That’s quite a jump. This pre-funding is completely unique to the United States Postal Service. It also accounts for about 90 percent of their reported loss since 2007.

Over the last few years, plans to remove the pre-funding requirement have fallen through. However, there have been fears of a possible taxpayer bailout, and that has driven reform talks once again.

The most recent plan proposal is to have a required enrollment in Medicare. Jessica Clement, the Legislative Director of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association said, “The mandate to enroll in Medicare Parts A, B, and D would allow the liability to be so reduced that it almost doesn’t exist anymore.” Required enrollment in Medicare at age 65 is standard in the private sector and it nearly eliminates the cost of pre-funding by reducing future health care costs. When an employee or retiree has both Medicare and FEHBP, Medicare pays first and becomes the primary.

NALC hasn’t officially endorsed the bill for a couple of reasons.

  • They want to see if they can maximize enrollment in Medicare.
  • Also, they want to see a hardship exemption for those who can’t afford the added cost.

Sauber also went on to say, “You’ve got to put this in context…you’ve got to ask ‘compared to what?’. The US government is one of the largest employers in the country, and really the proper comparison is other large national employers. And if you look at large national employers, a 75 percent contribution to health premiums is standard. In fact, more than 50 percent of Fortune 1000 companies pay 75 percent or more. You really can’t compare the US government and the millions of people it employs to the mom-and-pop shop down at the corner. It’s a different kind of labor market.”

NARFE believes that most federal employees pass up opportunities to change their health plans, even if they’re overpaying for insurance. They believe because of this; automatic enrollment could be the best way to go. “Given the nature of the federal community, given the decisions they’ve made up until this point, we feel that if you automatically enroll them in Medicare, as the House bill does…and allow them a very short window to opt out—hardship or otherwise; maybe they have an HMO that covers their costs, Medicare would just be an additional cost with very little benefit—give them this short time period to opt out, we believe very few would do so.”

Read more about what NALC and NARFE had to say about this below.

Elimination of Postal Service Pre-Funding Requirement Encouraged

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Agency Spotlight–The USPS

service

This month our Agency Spotlight falls on the United States Postal Service.

Who They Are

The United States Postal Service (USPS), also known as the Post Office, U.S. Mail, and Postal Service, is an independent agency of the US government. They are responsible for providing postal service to the United States. It’s an “establishment of the executive branch of the government of the United States” (39 U.S.C. § 201) controlled by Presidential appointees and the Postmaster General. As an agency, they also have special privileges. These include sovereign immunity (meaning they cannot commit a legal wrong and are immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution), eminent domain powers, powers to negotiate postal treaties with foreign nations, and an exclusive legal right to deliver first and third class mail.

Mission

The mission of the Postal Service is to provide the American public with trusted universal service. Their universal service obligation includes geographic scope, delivery frequency, a range of products, affordable and uniform pricing, access to services and facilities, service quality, and security of the mail. They are the only carrier with a legal obligation to provide these services.

History

The United States Constitution explicitly authorizes the USPS. A Postal Clause was added to the Constitution to facilitate inter-state communication while creating a source of revenue. Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 of the U.S. Constitution, known as the Postal Clause of Postal Power, empowers Congress “To establish Post Offices and post Roads”. This clause created some early controversy as to whether Congress had the power to build post roads and offices, or simply designate the lands and roads to be used for that purpose.

In the early 19th century, the U.S. Supreme Court construed this to mean that the power mostly consisted of the designation of roads and land. This gradually gave way later allowing for the appropriation of land for postal purposes. This clause also includes the power to designate certain materials as ‘non-mailable’ and passes statutes criminalizing abuses of the postal system.

 

USPS Law Enforcement

Law Enforcement agencies of the Post Office include the US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the Postal Inspectors.

The USPIS is one of the oldest law enforcement agencies in the country, founded by Benjamin Franklin. Their mission is to protect the Postal Service, it’s customers and employees from crime and protect the mail from criminal misuse. They also have the power to enforce the USPS control by conducting search and seizure raids on anyone or anything they suspect of sending non-urgent mail through overnight delivery competitors. Also, they oversee the activities of the Postal Police Force who patrol in and around selected high-risk postal facilities in major metropolitan areas in the U.S.

Click the link below to learn more about the history of the USPS and much more!

Agency Spotlight–The United States Postal Service

 

Subsequent posts will look at jobs within the Postal Service, how they become injured, and news involving the USPS.

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Federal Disability Retirement – Success Story

D.C. was a City Carrier for the United States Postal Service for 19 years. She was diagnosed with degenerative arthritis in both knees, patellofemoral syndrome, and a torn meniscus. Due to her medical conditions, she was unable to perform many of the duties of her position, and began working only 5 hours a day. D.C. reached out to Harris Federal in May of 2013. After speaking with our staff, she immediately hired us to begin work on her claim for federal disability retirement.

We began work on her claim in May of 2013. Harris Federal gathered all of the pertinent medical documentation, and worked with D.C. to complete all of the necessary forms. Her application was submitted in July of 2013, just two months after Harris Federal began work on her claim. D.C.’s application arrived at the OPM in October of 2013. While awaiting a decision, we continued to work with D.C. and her medical providers to submit updated medical evidence in support of her claim. It took just five months for D.C. to receive a decision, and as of March 2014, she has been approved for her disability retirement claim.

 

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Federal Disability Retirement – Success Story

Mr. G. became a client of Harris Federal Law Firm in August of 2013. He is a 55 year old Letter Carrier for the United States Postal Service from Chesapeake, VA. Mr. G was diagnosed by his doctors and treating medical physicians as having multiple ailments and injuries preventing him from performing his duties as a letter carrier. These injuries range from bipolar disorder, severe anxiety, severe depression disorder, adult attention deficit disorder, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, renal failure, dysphoria, and heat stroke. These injuries and ailments became so severe that he became incapacitated in being able to perform his daily job functions as a Letter Carrier for the United States Postal Service.

After compiling Mr. G. medical records, progress notes, work excuses, medications list, personal statement of disability, and other pertinent information to ensure that his application was of the highest quality and integrity, our firm submitted the Federal Disability Retirement Application to the OPM in September of 2013. After guiding Mr. G. through the long arduous and tenuous processes at the OPM, his application was approved within three months. Mr. G. was overjoyed and ecstatic with our representation and overwhelmed upon receiving his approval letter from the OPM.

 

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Human Resource Shared Service Center for Federal Employees

When a federal employee submits a federal disability retirement claim, asks for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or wants to make a change to a benefit election, the Human Resource officer is the person to speak with. However, within the decade, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has switched almost every element of their internal offices to a Human Resource Shared Service Center (HRSSC). The office is located in Greensboro, NC, and services all of our country’s postal service employees.

While some of processes have been streamlined, some can be much more cumbersome for the employee. Working with a local officer gave you a face and contact person who might remember you and your file. The HRSSC is enormous and is nearly impossible to speak with the same person twice, let alone establish a relationship with them.

Some local level HR employees may not have understood all of the points perfectly, some were fantastic! The HRSSC has leveled the playing field so that all of them have a similar base knowledge to assist an employee, even if it does seem a bit impersonal.

There is little chance of personal vendetta, which can be to the worker’s advantage, but also little chance of special understanding or exceptions. The large corporate approach increases some efficiency, but deludes some of the charm.

The HRSSC in Greensboro comes into play significantly when a postal employee files for federal disability retirement. If the applicant is still employed, their application is submitted to the HRSSC with all accompanying paperwork, evidence, and exhibits. The HRSSC collects a significant portion of the employee’s personnel file and packages the entire group to the Postal Finance Center in Eagon, MN for Payroll information.

The HRSSC ensures that the applicant’s supervisor completes the 3112 B form and gets the 3112 D filled out as well. These are critical to the case to keep it moving. OPM protocol is to hold case files that are not complete and not assign them to an LAS until they are received. Ensuring that the file is properly documented is critical to the process and can throw a wrench into your retirement application.

Contact us if you have questions about how the HRSSC works or any questions about federal employee benefits. Call us anytime… We are here to help!

 

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Federal Disability Retirement – MSPB Success Story

D.C. was a 17 year USPS employee, working as a Mail Processing Clerk in Chicago, Illinois. Due to her medical conditions, she was no longer able to successfully perform all of the requirements of her job, even after accepting a modified job in 2001. She requested further accommodation in 2010, but was denied by her employer. As a result, she made a timely application for federal disability retirement in 2010, due to the worsening of her cardiomyopathy, fibromyalgia, dizziness, and pain in her hip, right knee, wrists, and hands.

Unfortunately, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) denied her application in both their initial decision and the reconsideration decision. She appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) pro se, but discovered, like many other federal employees, that the MSPB is a different and more complicated arena. Upon the suggestion of the presiding Administrative Judge, D.C. sought professional assistance for her pending appeal. After speaking with senior attorney, Mr. Brad Harris, D.C. decided to hire Harris Federal Law Firm.

Mr. Harris was able to enter the appeal as D.C.’s representative and secure an extension of time to gather medical records and employment records for her case. Mr. Harris and his legal assistant, Leah Bachmeyer, put together a strong set of prehearing submissions, complete with over 800 pages of additional evidence. As a result, the OPM reversed its position, granting D.C. disability retirement benefits, and D.C.’s appeal never proceeded to a formal hearing.

If you or someone you know needs to speak to a professional about federal disability retirement benefits, call Harris Federal Law Firm. We are here to help!

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