Editorial: FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement – Defending a Necessary Benefit

An exclusive article to PostalReporter.com written by Attorney Robert R. McGill

Does the Emperor receive his standing because of his hereditary anointment by the gods, or because of his superior governance abilities?  Or, by giving generously to the lords and vassals and currying favor among them, does he retain power?  Or, by giving lifetime gifts to the masses?  Fear the emperor who consolidates power by doing the latter; for mob rule knows no boundaries, laws, or heavenly dictates.  Power by lawlessness is indeed the origin of the reign of terror.                 — From, The Shadows of Machiavelli

Article 1, Section Eight, Clause 7 of the U.S. Constitution specifically empowers Congress to “establish Post Offices”, and to that extent, it is always important to recognize that the U.S. Postal Service is not merely a convenience or a Federal mandate which merely exists because some Senator or Congressman decided that it would please his or her constituents; rather, the Founding Fathers recognized the necessity of establishing a network of interstate commerce and communication between the various states, and the importance thereof.

As a Constitutional creation, the Postal Service deserves a special place in the budgetary process and decision-making deliberations during these times of debt-reduction efforts, of political conversations and debates.  Where it is a Constitutional creation, the employees of such an entity should be provided with a compensation package which is commensurate with its status as a recognized and vital part of the Federal government.  Federal Disability Retirement should remain a part of every Postal Worker’s compensation package, for reasons which are Constitutional, pragmatically justifiable, and because it is a progressive paradigm of cost-savings.      Today, of course, the talk which seems prevalent tends to center around the financial red ink which annually emanates from the U.S. Postal Service.  Recent reports have revealed a steady decline in first class mail, variously estimated at between 26 – 30 percent since 2006, primarily resulting from technology, email, electronic delivery systems, and competing private sector companies such as UPS and FedEx.  The Postal Service is expected to continue to have net losses, with a conservative estimate being around $10 billion for the current year.

Whatever blame which may be bandied about, one thing is for certain in the opinion of this writer:  The Craft employees who comprise the backbone of the U.S. Postal Service are not the cause of the mounting losses; neither is it defined by the mid-level Managers, Supervisors and Postmasters.  They continue to work with less help; with pay which can only be described as barely adequate; and still have annual revenues of more than $67 billion.  What other Federal agency (or “quasi” Federal agency, as the case may be more properly described) could boast of actually receiving any revenue at all?

The fact that the creation of the U.S. Postal Service is specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution should not be overlooked, or so easily dismissed.  It is the responsibility of the Congress to establish the U.S. Postal Service.  There are multiple Federal Agencies which have been established by Congress, and allowed to perpetuate in existence and expanded incursion into the lives of Americans, with barely a claim to Federal authority, let alone a specific reference clearly indicating an authority to fund and organize the entity.  Few can claim a revenue stream; the U.S. Postal Service can.  As established by the Federal Government, as specifically designated for creation and continued existence by the U.S. Constitution, $10 billion annually to fund a necessary service is a mere pittance when compared to what the U.S. Postal workers do for this country, for the worldwide service it provides, for the level of compensation its workers receive.  How many other Federal agencies can exist with an annual budget of a mere $10 billion?  How many other Federal agencies can boast of a revenue stream of over $67 billion annually?  How many other Federal agencies compete with private sector companies and succeed in the commercial marketplace?  These are, of course, rhetorical questions, and the simple answer is:  No other Federal agency can boast of such.

As a Constitutional entity, it is absolutely proper that U.S. Postal workers should enjoy the benefits of Federal sector employees – of access to the same health insurance options as Federal workers, and to have the same life insurance benefits.  Further, as Postal workers are under the same pension plans as Federal workers – under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) – they also enjoy the benefit of Federal Disability Retirement.  Federal Disability Retirement, whether under FERS or CSRS, is especially a needed benefit when one considers the type of arduous physical requirements which craft employees, supervisors and postmaster must endure in the daily course of their working lives.  Perhaps the everyday American is not aware of the extent of repetitive use of one’s neck, shoulders, back, knees, wrists, etc., that the Postal Clerk, Letter Carrier, Mail Handler or Mail Processing Clerk, among many other craft employees, must engage in on a daily basis.  Or, take the Postmaster of a small postal facility – the one who must fill in for the craft employees, work the customer service window, and perform the daily administrative duties in repetitive, unrelenting fashion on a daily basis.  Or the Rural Carrier who must twist and turn one’s upper body, grasping, turning and reaching to place bundles of mail into mail boxes, mile after endless mile.  It is indeed a miracle that the human body can withstand such repetitive wearing upon muscular tissue, bone structure, nerve endings, layers of cartilage, etc., and year after year, be able to allow the individual to perform the progressively deteriorating repetitive functions which are required by the Postal Service.  We haven’t even mentioned the constant walking, mile upon mile, of the letter carrier; the walking up and down stairs, steps; of entering and exiting a motor vehicle repeatedly throughout the day.

Is OWCP the answer to this?  No.  Why not?  Too many injuries culminate in their originating causation by events outside of the workplace, after years of occupational harm.  Think about it this way:  A Letter Carrier who has been carrying for twenty years, walking for mile upon countless mile, day in and day out, week after week, month in and years upon years, plays a game of softball and tears the anterior cruciate ligament, from which he or she never fully recovers.  The Letter Carrier is unable to state – and the treating Orthopaedic Surgeon is not willing to provide a narrative report arguing it – that the years of repetitive grinding from daily walking, etc., was the primary contributing factor to the injury.  The originating cause of the injury being a softball game, OWCP would deny any claim submitted.

Federal Disability Retirement benefits are blind to the issue of causality, and as such, accords protection for the U.S. Postal Worker (and Federal workers generally) in the event that he or she is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS is unconcerned with the “whether” of an injury (as in, Whether or not it was job-related); rather, it is only concerned with the “what” and “how” of the injury, as in:  What is the injury, and how does it impact one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job?

Furthermore, Federal Disability Retirement is not an “entitlement”, but a benefit which must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence that one is eligible for the disability retirement annuity.  Once received, there is a random methodology of checking upon disability retirement annuitants to ensure that he or she is still disabled from performing the former job.  Additionally, many (if not most) Federal Disability Retirement annuitants go on to begin second careers, whether on a part-time basis or a full-time basis, and as such, continue to contribute economically to the strength of the workforce, by paying Federal, State and local taxes.  It is thus a “self-paying” paradigm – a benefit which can hardly be described of most other benefits, entitlements or not.
The winds of change may be blowing in the wind, but any changes should come about with the specific recognition that the U.S. Postal Worker holds a special place in the U.S. Constitution.  As such, it is important for the Congress and the President to recognize that Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit which should remain as an integral part of the total compensation package granted to each and every Postal Worker.  Anything less would be a travesty and disservice to the tens of thousands of Postal workers throughout the country – those workers who are working because of an Article 1, Section Eight, Clause 7 mandate of the U.S. Constitution.

About the Author
Attorney Robert R. McGill specializes in securing Federal Disability Retirement benefits for Federal and Postal workers under both FERS and CSRS. He represents Federal and Postal employees from all across the United States, from the West Coast to the East, and every state in between, as well as Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Europe, Japan, etc. For more information about his legal services, please visit his Federal Disability Retirement and U.S. Postal Service Disability Retirement websites.

14 thoughts on “Editorial: FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement – Defending a Necessary Benefit

  1. First off I use the postal service more now then ever as I order things via the internet, two do you think that the postal service is the only job that causes health problems PLEEASE!!! And most business’s dont have to pay people till they die for those injuries like postal federal does. Three I think anyone that has a good job with good benefits sure wouldnt want to loose that or go for lower standards of insurance or benefits like other jobs. there is alot of jobs out there that are HARDER so hate all the whining. I no an older lady her husband was a postmaster he is passed away right now. But he continued to get benefits after the post office closed, he didnt go get another job didnt have too. She now gets his benefits cause she is entiitled to them since she was married to him. Is this how other jobs are. She is still using postal federal insurance. Or how about the a woman i no that gets va benefits, because of injury in service, got a job at post office claimed another injury, now gets disability from post service, and has another gov style full time job, if she was so disabled how can she work full time. 3 insurances, 3 gov checks all the nice benefits to go just like mcdonalds, and of course if she was on another type job not fed she would have to report any income she was getting but not these federal ones. makes good money!! So tell me that the postal service dont need some restructuring so it wont be paying out like it is. and yes times have changed!!!

  2. PMG does not make any projections beyond 12/31/2011 due to the Mayan Calendar. APWU on the other hand will raise dues in conjunction with their constitution and the pathetic 1% raise they fought so hard for. Besides…after the next VERA their coffers will be pretty dry so…its either lay off other union workers at “L” street in Wash DC or raise dues or maybe both! Keep paying dem dues bruthas and sistas!

  3. The way my body feels I will be retiring from workers comp way before I reach the age. Whether it’s health insurance or workers comp the USPS has a legal obligation to take care of it’s employees for injury sustained on the job. My knees did not go from driving to and from work.

  4. Then deal with it. We all have to deal with a Management that cant read contracts they sign, A Congress that cant read the writing on the wall. Am i right or am i right?

  5. One thing that is not considered is that not everyone depends on electronic communication. Yes, it has its place. However, depending on a computer for everything is placing all your eggs in one basket. It is akin to all your money in one investment and hoping it will be safe. If one were to pass away, how would your beneficiaries handle your personal affairs or know what accounts you have online or the passwords to access them? When I had to take over my mother’s personal affairs, I had to go through all her mail, read or unread and sift through any outstanding accounts. It was one of the main ways for me to contact the appropriate businesses to clear up any outstanding debts. If everything were online, this may not have been possible. Not to mention that many fail to keep their computers safe from viruses, identity theft or keep their computers in good running or. Many people also fail to update their accounts and share the info and passwords with their heirs to manage their affairs nor do some wish for everyone to know everything until their is no other choice. Many people prefer to read something on hardcopy at one’s leisure instead of constantly going online to refer to something. One is also susceptible to losing years of sensitive information wiped out from computer malfunction. Many people do not have the time, knowledge, nor finances to maintain the latest technology devices or are that interested in them. Technology has its place, but it is not the end all, be all. These days, due to computer electronic malfunction on an automobile, one can’t even row their windows up or down instead of manually doing so. Somethings are still best done efficiently the old fashioned way.

  6. It is really too bad that we can not hear from non-computer users about the way they feel concerning the service reductions being proposed. After all, only computer users are posting here. That being said, don’t we all know several friends or relatives that are not computer savvy and may never use a computer for anything? Why should these tax paying citizens be held to the wishes of those that think the internet is the most wonderful thing ever invented and that everyone everywhere will someday be forced to use it? I want to thank attorney Robert R. McGill for a well written article that makes some very good points. The writing on the wall seems to becoming clearer. When Congress gets thru trampling on the USPS and taking away most of the workers rights, they will wake up to the fact that they must be the ones that will dictate to Congress the way it will be by a nation wide strike that will cripple this already suffering economy but will force the apathetic to awaken to the real needs of this country and the people as a whole. Then and only then will all this BS end. Be strong and be prepared because going postal may have to reach new heights before it is over.

  7. “The only way to possibly keep it in future existence will be a drastic change in the business model and that change will be extremely painful to all our employees!”

    80% & $50K VER… Yea they might be tripping over each other running for the doors. But you can get at least 3 of them PSE for the price of an oldtimer so it shouldn’t be so bad. Get that OVERPAYMENT back and no worries mate.

    CSRS.gone, healthcare gone, slip under the table a new retirement with paycuts and no step increases,maybe even get rid of the nite/sunday pay, cut the sick an annual leave in half along with all the post office, well maybe a little painful for some, but hell what do you suckas care.

  8. Until the 21st century, the U.S mail was one of the most common forms of communication, and it could be seen everywhere from rural communities to the heart of the city. However, with the advent of the internet, people began to transition away from mail, especially once the internet became affordable for most people.

    This was actually written about the advent of the automobile in the 20th century and the decline of the horse and buggy. See any similarities? We are in big trouble Suckas!!!

  9. It’s to bad that our leaders in washington D.C. do not have a grasp of what the demands of our job does to our bodies. Alot of our patrons do and I believe that’s why most of them are appreciative of the service we give them. Every carrier I know has some health problems from the job. That’s why we deserve the pay we get. Bottom line is that what we do destoys our bodies over time.

  10. Constitution was written over 200 years ago and should be continuously updated every generation.I don’t think our forefathers thought that there would someday be I-phones,I-pads,I-pods and computers in future generations.I am sorry to say that the USPS is a dinosaur form of current day communication.The only way to possibly keep it in future existence will be a drastic change in the business model and that change will be extremely painful to all our employees!

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