Postal Unions call on Obama, DOL to withdraw proposal to reduce workers’ comp benefits

Postal Unions call on Obama, DOL to withdraw proposal to reduce workers' comp benefitsNPMHU: Postal Unions Call On DOL to Withdraw Support for Misguided FECA Reform Measures

June 15, 2015) In a joint letter to the Department of Labor, Postal Union Presidents Paul V. Hogrogian (NPMHU), Fredric V. Rolando (NALC), Mark Dimondstein (APWU), and Jeanette Dwyer (NRLCA) object to the department’s unjustified proposal to reduce workers’ compensation benefits. The four Union Presidents call on the Obama administration and the Department of Labor to withdraw its current proposal for FECA reform and work with the Unions and Congressional allies to fashion sensible legislation.

Dear Secretary Perez:

On May 20, 2015 the House Education and Workforce, Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing on reforming the workers compensation program for federal employees (FECA). The National Association of Letter Carriers’ Director of Retired Members, Ron Watson, a recognized expert on FECA, testified alongside Mr. Leonard Howie III, Director of the DOL’s Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP) and an official of the General Accountability Office. Sue Carney, Human Relations Director of the American Postal Workers Union, also submitted testimony. Based on what happened at that hearing, we believe the Obama administration and the Department of Labor should withdraw its current proposal for FECA reform and work with us and our allies in Congress to fashion sensible reform.

Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), the Ranking Member of the sub-committee, summarized it best at the hearing when he said: “I am disappointed that the Department of Labor would come forward for the third time in the past five years with a proposal to cut benefits for injured workers that is not evidence-based, and whose justification has been completely debunked by the Government Accountability Office.” He went on to say that it is “incomprehensible that we are now considering whether to take $500 million from middle class workers – and their families – who have suffered a disabling work-related injury while doing their jobs in service to the American people.”

It became clear during the hearing that your department’s proposals to reduce workers’ compensation benefits for injured workers with dependents, and reduce benefits again at retirement age, are not based on solid evidence that benefits are excessive. Rather they seem to be based on comparisons to state workers’ compensation programs that have been systematically gutted over the past two decades. Indeed, a recent OSHA report, Adding Inequality to Injury, found that the cost of workplace injuries in state systems is massively subsidized by injured workers, their families and taxpayer-supported components of the social safety net.

The GAO witness at the hearing confirmed that its own studies show that the proposed cut in FECA benefits at retirement age would result in 22-35% less income for an injured worker than a typical FERS retiree. Frankly, the DOL’s weak defense of its proposals at the hearing was embarrassing.

While we would welcome the kind of thoughtful, bipartisan FECA reform legislation that was passed by the House of Representatives during the 112th Congress (H.R. 2465), we cannot accept unfair benefit cuts contained in the OWCP’s proposals. Disabled and injured workers already face the loss of benefits under current law — OWCP administratively reduces compensation benefits based on Loss of Wage Earning Capacity (LWEC) determinations, even if injured workers cannot find suitable alternative employment. Slashing benefits even further is totally unjustifiable.

That these unjust proposals are being touted as a “pay-for” for a reconciliation bill seeking to repeal the Affordable Care Act only adds insult to injury. While we know that President Obama will rightfully veto this legislation, these proposed FECA cuts will be offered again later this year when the Congress grapples with budget cuts required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The Obama administration and your department should not be complicit in advancing these discredited proposals.

We call on the Department of Labor to withdraw its support for the FECA reforms outlined in the President’s 2016 budget. They were developed during the Bush administration and have been repeatedly shown to be misguided. Please work with the unions and with allies in the Congress to fashion FECA reform that is both evidence-based and fair to injured workers.

 

Read the Unions’ letter (pdf)

Obama, GOP pushing cuts to Workers' Comp for Federal and Postal WorkersExcerpts from May 20, 2015 the House Education and Workforce, Subcommittee hearing

DOL has suggested that “In most instances, FECA benefits far exceed the amount an injured worker might receive in the form of retirement benefits, and therefore provide a strong disincentive for return to productive employment.”

However, that suggestion is completely inconsistent with the GAO and Congressional Research Service reports.

Too many letter carriers, including some here today with me, have suffered traumatic and catastrophic injuries, such as bilateral amputation of their legs, when they were crushed between oncoming vehicles and their mail trucks while working mail. What message will be sent to workers who lose their livelihoods and careers from work-related injuries while serving the American public? There is no evidence that FECA benefits need to be reduced, unless the DOL is simply following the practice of some states in arbitrarily cutting workers’ compensation benefits without regard to the consequences.

Obama, GOP pushing cuts to Workers’ Comp for Federal and Postal Workers

5 thoughts on “Postal Unions call on Obama, DOL to withdraw proposal to reduce workers’ comp benefits

  1. Thoughtful posts here. I agree on a few central points: first, why go after us federal employees over and over again? Why does Congress hate us to the point of trying to screw us out of our rightful benefits? Part of it is the mentality that we’re overpaid and should be getting “industry standard” wages and benefits. Translated, that means Wal-Mart conditions and the continued attack on the middle class and organized labor. The other is a Congress full of rich bastards on both sides of the aisles with the “I got mine and I want yours” frame of mind. Some of these power mongers simply cannot stand having any regular Joe having a dime to his or her name.
    Another point is the abuse of the OWCP system. I was forced as a branch president of the NALC to fight on behalf of a very mean lying person who was feigning problems that supposedly didn’t allow them to work. Said person (I’m trying to keep names anonymous) took up a lot of my time, and even though truly supportive medical evidence was never produced, the ruse worked. I had my doubts but being a branch officer and not a doctor, I was legally bound to help, and only later did I find out for sure that the whole thing was a snow job because this individual just wanted to “fuck with (the postmaster)”.
    Well, that person is gone now, and good riddance. But as Melvin stated, many claimants are getting comp well after any reasonable retirement age. That is the fault of them for being greedy and the Service for not being more diligent about fraud. Millions would be saved if phonies were caught.
    But I can attest after 30+ years of being a city carrier, going way back to pre-internet days when the mail was a nightmare backbreaking load, that this job does a number on the body. I’ve had shoulder surgery and two hernia surgeries, and have a blown couple of lower disks in my lumbar region that hurt like hell.
    Many if not most OWCP claims are legitimate and the people deserve to draw it as long as they aren’t involved in fraud. There is no excuse for trying to reduce such benefits because it’s their work we do when we do get hurt.
    I do not think the NALC has been an effective fighting union at the national level since Fred Rolando took over. We seem to have lost the will to get tough, like the late great Vince Sombrotto and Bill Young, who was no shrinking violet, either. I know my office is quite fed up with the lack of interest from the NALC and lack of support unless you happen to be in a megabranch where the votes and bucks count. Since we’re not, we’re just ignored because we can’t make or break anybody with our smaller numbers.
    Sad situation.

  2. I agree that there shouldn’t be any cuts to the benefits. However, Fred could eliminate a lot of claims by simply allowing curbside boxes for everyone. So many carriers would have better knees, ankles, backs, ect., not to mention being crushed between 2 vehicles. But Freddie won’t allow that because it means less carriers needed which=less union dues, so instead he gets on his high horse again talking about reform. And the NALC is working for it’s members?? Sure

  3. Absolutely Dav. It is so much easier to make a decision when one has no experience with the circumstances. It is also that much more catastrophic.

  4. OK Folks. I said it once and I’ll say it again, if you want to protect the benefits of legitimately (not arguably) injured employees, you have to acknowledge the problems in the workers compensation program. Maintain your credibility. Chargebacks in 2001 were over 1,500,000,000 (One and a half BILLION) and were the same the next year. It is down now to about a Billion this year. As of May 10, 2013 there were 20,000 USPS employees receiving OWCP benefits including 181 between the age of 90 and 99, and two over the age of 100.

    If you want to defend the workers compensation program you must acknowledge the problems and seek reform of the system.

    Workers compensation was a scheme devised by the states in the 1800’s to shield employers from tort liability. It still serves that function. It is a USPS employee’s “exclusive remedy,” and absent fraud, OWCP decisions are not reviewable by a federal court. Paradoxically, the system designed to benefit employers is impervious to challenge.

    But I digress. Cindy Carrier and Charlie Clerk know someone who is abusing the system – and they hear this wailing about “depriving” the injured of benefits while they sweat away to pay those benefits to people they wonder about (still on the Bowling team with the 2 pound lifting restriction). Those few abusers are going to destroy the system that the legitimately injured need to survive. Let’s acknowledge the problems. When you hear the lamentations against reforming workers compensation stop a minute and think about it. Admit something is wrong. The injured must be provided for, but something is fundamentally wrong here.

    I sincerely hope that wiser minds than mine will find a way to protect the injured and reform the system.

    Until then let’s all have faith that all of the 20,000 OWCP recipients are deserving of benefits. That will keep Cindy, Charlie, and I from losing our sanity.

  5. Only after you walk in the injured folks moccasins for a day should you make these decisions !

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