The economic downturn and the continued electronic diversion of mail, coupled with an aggressive retiree health pre-payment schedule have combined to put the Postal Service in financial crisis. A recent analysis of the future of the mail conducted on behalf of the Postal Service showed that mail volume may not recover along with the economy – further deteriorating the Postal Service’s financial condition in the years to come. Moreover, in its April 12 report entitled, “U.S. Postal Service: Strategies and Options to Facilitate Progress Toward Financial Viability,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found This report presents the results of our review of the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) Overpayment by the U.S. Postal Service (Project Number 10YO036CI000).This report discusses the $75 billion CSRS overpayment by the Postal Service in fiscal years (FY) 1972 through 2009. The objective of this review was to assess the facts concerning this overpayment and identify any possible solution(s) to correct the overpayment to the benefit of the Postal Service. This review addresses financial risk.See Appendix A for additional information about this review.
On May 5, 2010, the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) entered, for the record, the attached Congressional testimony with the U.S. Congress in addition to the oral testimony previously given by the Postal Service’s Inspector General (IG) before Congress on April 15 and 22, 2010. 1 The attached testimony (See Appendix B) explains, in detail, the Postal Service’s $75 billion overpayment to the CSRS and three possible solutions to correct the overpayment contained in the IG’s written testimony of May 5, 2010. (See Appendix B pages 13 – 16)
The Postal Service pension fund is not made up of tax dollars. The two funding streams are the employees’ own money and money collected from postage sales, with inflated prices as a result of the $75 billion overpayment. See Appendix C for OIG’s detailed monetary impact calculation. The return of the overpayment or a combination of actions to realize the benefit of the $75 billion overpayment to the Postal Service would fully fund the pension and health retiree plans. The Postal Service’s more than $7 billion annual payments for retiree health care prefunding and retiree health care premiums would no 1 The April 15, 2010, Hearing before the Committee on Oversight and Government reform and the Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia House of Representatives and the April 22, 2010, Hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security.
How the $75 Billion overcharge started:
In July 1971, when the Post Office Department became the Postal Service, employees that belonged to the federal pension fund began contributing to the Postal Service’s portion of the pension fund. These retirement costs were divided according to the number of years employees had belonged to each fund. However, the federal pension fund paid for retirements was based on 1971 salaries, not final salaries as administered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
OPM has explained that these mischarges were in response to what they believed to be the will of Congress expressed in 1974 legislation. However, the 1974 language was repealed by Congress in 2003. Congress directed OPM to use its authority to oversee the reforms using accepted “dynamic assumptions” that include pay increases and inflation. OPM switched to dynamic funding for the Postal Service portion, but did not for their share. The Postal Service paid the $75 billion difference.
In 2004, the Postal Service appealed the OPM’s methodology for pension fund allocation and the appeal was denied by the OPM. The denial relied on 1974 legislation that made the Postal Service responsible for the pension costs related to salary increases. However, the 1974 language was repealed by Congress.
In addition, the OPM directed the Postal Service to use 100 percent pre-funding for both pension and health care retirement funds. In contrast the OPM has pension funding levels of 41 percent for federal employees and 24 percent for the military. The OPM’s own retiree health care prefunding for federal employees is 0 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 companies’ pension funding is 80 percent.
Correcting either the $75 billion overcharge or reducing the 100 percent target prefunding level to 80 percent would result in the ability of the Postal Service to pay off the Treasury debt associated with paying the $75 billion overcharge.
Accordingly, the annual costs and premiums for the health care liability could be financed out of the interest earnings and surplus. Another option for the Postal Service could be to use the $75 billion overcharge to pledge to the retiree health fund instead of making annual payments. This could be done with the agreement of the OPM and the U.S. Treasury.
The details concerning each of the three possible solutions can be found in the appendix of the attached Congressional testimony.