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.