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Workers’ Comp & USPS Transformation
The general purpose of addressing workers’ compensation in the Transformation Plan is to reduce costs to the Postal Service for injuries that are sustained on the job. The Transformation Plan states that there are specific issues under FECA that are contributing to their escalating compensation costs:
1. The Postal Service’s inability to contact the employee’s medical provider by phone. 2. The fact that there is no waiting period before wage-loss compensation is paid for traumatic injuries. 3. They believe that compensation rates are too generous. They propose only one rate (66 2/3%). 4. The Postal Service contends that compensation should not be a lifetime benefit. At retirement age, compensation should be adjusted to a tax-free amount equal to what a retiree would receive. 5. Medical costs are not adequately controlled by fee schedule.
They are proposing five “sub-strategies” to achieve these goals.
Sub-strategy 1: Expand the Preferred Provider Organization Program with First Health and Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. We announced in previous articles, and on the website, that the Postal Service was undertaking a pilot program with First Health to save money on medical expenses relating to workers’ compensation claims. This proposal would expand the pilot from its current locations and enact it nationwide. First Health pays medical providers at agreed upon rates that are usually substantially lower than what OWCP would allow through their bill payment system. This savings is filtered back to the Postal Service.
Sub-strategy 2: Move all Federal Employees’ Compensation Act recipients to FECA annuity at age 65. The plan states: “Employees who receive benefits through the FECA program will receive 66 2/3 percent or 75 percent of their basic salary, the latter for employees with a dependent. This tax free salary is extremely generous and in many instances equates to as much as 25 percent more than what the employee would receive for a comparable OPM retirement through one of the government programs. The annual compensation cost of living adjustments that are added each year to an employee on total injury disability rewards someone who stays out on compensation versus returning to work.” The Postal Service is proposing a FECA managed retirement program that would calculate benefits similar to those of a normal retirement for all present and former employees over age 65 on the compensation rolls of OWCP. What this means is that once an injured worker reaches age 65, his/her compensation benefits would be recalculated from the 66 2/3% or 75% level to a figure that would more closely mirror their earned retirement benefits.
Sub-strategy 3: Encourage the Office of Workers’
Compensation Programs to revise current
regulations to allow for direct contact with the
treating physician by the employing agency. In
January 1999 OWCP amended their regulations to
prevent agency personnel from contacting an
employee’s treating physician directly (by phone
and/or in person). The Postal Service is looking
to regain that right in order to explain limited
duty assignments and offer options to
accommodate employees. The Postal Service
believes that changing this current regulation
would ensure that postal managers initiated
close monitoring of employees’ physical
condition and it would allow early worker’s
compensation program specialists’ intervention
to assist the employee in a speedy return to the
Sub-strategy 4: Private sector outplacement of Injured Postal Service employees and the creation of new internal positions to accommodate injured workers. The goals of this strategy are to successfully implement, with OWCP, an accelerated private sector placement program that reduces the amount of time necessary for an outplacement from up to two years to less than one year, and to reduce the number of postal employees in non-productive rehabilitation assignments by placing them in private sector employment.
Sub-strategy 5: Interagency work cooperation to attain organizational objectives. The Postal Service believes that cooperation must exist between them and the OWCP, especially as it relates to the timely processing of compensation claims and medical bills. The Postal Service wants to work with OWCP in developing joint strategies to achieve both agency’s objectives and not at each other’s expenses. The goal is to have all claims paid in a timely manner, while performing quality checks to prevent the duplicate payment of medical bills.
The National Association of Letter Carriers will continue to monitor the progress of these strategies and will provide you with as up to date information as is possible.
Denny YODA Belden