Hypothetical: A U.S. Postal Worker has been working for the past 7 years in a modified position. Seven years ago, he injured himself on the job; he filed for OWCP benefits, had surgery, and returned some months later in a position within the same Craft, but modified to fit his medical restrictions and limitations. By all accounts, he has been a productive worker. Without warning, one day the Postal Worker is called into the office, interviewed, reassured, then escorted from the facility and informed that there is no longer any work for him to do, and that, by the way, “You can file for Worker’s Comp.”
Can such a hypothetical occur?
The reality is that, under the National Reassessment Program (NRP), such a hypothetical is not a fictional instance of someone’s imaginative fantasy; rather, it is a reality which is occurring today.
In the world of the U.S. Postal Service and the injured worker who has one or more medical conditions such that he or she has restrictions or limitations which prevent one from performing the full panoply of the duties as outlined in the Position Description, there is no such thing as “bilateral loyalty”. Bilateral loyalty goes like this: You give your life to the organization, and the organization will be loyal to you. The reality is the opposite: You give your life to the organization, and if you can’t do the full duties of your bid job, you will no longer have a job with us. The latter is termed, “unilateral loyalty” (i.e., kill yourself for our sake, and we’ll get rid of you if we find that you cannot perform the full duties of your position).
Whether you are a City Letter Carrier, a Rural Carrier, a Mail Handler, Mail Processing Clerk, Distribution Clerk, Sales & Service Associate, Supervisor of a large, small, or mid-sized facility, or even a Postmaster – if you cannot perform the full duties of your position, your are in danger of being “downsized” (i.e., a euphemism for being terminated, or otherwise denied work).
Are there solutions to the hypothetical-turned-reality in the world of layoffs, and in light of the National Reassessment Program? There are multiple problems which continue to arise in the scenario as described above: OWCP is not a retirement system, and their rolls are being scrutinized with greater regularity, and the eligibility standards appear to be tightening ever more. Can one file for unemployment benefits even though the Postal Worker is still officially on “the rolls” of the U.S. Postal Service? Will the Postal Service separate you from service, or will they wait for a year, keeping you on LWOP? And how about Health Insurance benefits – will the Postal Service continue to maintain the premiums so that you will not lose your Health Insurance benefits?
In the end, each Postal Worker – in whatever Craft or position one is in – must make decisions which are financially beneficial to the self-interest of the individual. The term “self-interest” is not meant to be used as a pejorative or negative term – for, that is precisely how the U.S. Postal Service views the entire matter from their perspective – from the organizational self-interest.
Thus, whether an individual Postal Worker, in any given Craft, suffers from a medical condition or disability – whether psychiatric or physical – he or she must protect and secure one’s financial future. Filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS is a viable option which allows for the Postal Worker to retire, receive a monthly annuity, retain the Health Insurance benefits from the Federal System, and go on to find other employment and be allowed to earn up to 80% of what the former Postal Job currently pays. Remember – OWCP is not a retirement system. As such, while it is a temporary means of being compensated, it will not last forever. Further, remember that an individual under FERS or CSRS may concurrently file for OWCP benefits and get a Federal Disability Retirement approved, and continue to remain on OWCP until such time that one’s OWCP benefits are cut off or otherwise terminated. If you already have the FERS or CSRS disability retirement benefits approved, you can “activate” such benefits once your OWCP benefits are terminated. This is an important point to consider, because it can often take 6 – 8 months, or more, to get a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS approved.