Most of the Postal Service's ballooning costs for workers' compensation result from injuries that are at least eight years old, according to a postal official.
"A majority of the workers’ compensation costs are attributed to employees who were injured prior to 2008," USPS spokesperson Darlene Casey wrote this week in a comment on Dead Tree Edition. She was responding to the article Are USPS Changes Leading to More Work-Related Injuries?, which suggested that recent changes in working conditions might have contributed to the agency's rapidly escalating workers' comp costs.
The Postal Service supports the recent Inspector General's report that describes why USPS workers' comp costs rose 35% from 2008 to 2013 despite a 19% decrease in the workforce, Ms. Casey said. Healthcare inflation has been a major factor, she added.
USPS also agrees with the IG's call for reforming the federal law that governs workers' comp at USPS.
The IG report showed that the number of new workers' comp claims per employee dropped drastically in 2009 but inched back up to 7 per 100 employees in 2013, the same rate as in 2008. No data have been released regarding changes in the type or severity of injuries.
Here is Ms. Casey's comment in its entirety:
The Postal Service appreciates the work of the Office of Inspector
General (IG) highlighting the need to reform the Federal Employees'
Compensation Act (FECA). The IG report describes many factors which
contribute to the increase in the Postal Service's workers' compensation
costs, including injury rates associated with a more mature workforce,
reduced light/limited duty positions attributed to automation, and cost
of living adjustments.
The cost of living adjustments mentioned
in the report do not refer to employees’ salary adjustments, but rather
federally mandated cost of living adjustments provided to federal
employees on the Department of Labor (DOL) Periodic Rolls. For the years
2008 – 2013 those increases were 4.3 percent, 0 percent, 3.4 percent,
1.7 percent, 3.2 percent, and 1.7 percent respectively, which when
compounded equates to an increase of 15.1 percent over the base period.
Postal Service also strongly believes that healthcare inflation is a
major contributing factor to the cost increases. Our average medical
cost per case has increased 43.4 percent since 2008 far greater than the
compounded 21.3 percent reported adjusted medical care cost increase
reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In comparison, the average
compensation cost per case has increased 24.2 percent in the same time
We must reiterate the findings of the IG that these
increases in expenses occurred during a time when claims filed with the
DOL were less than the 2008 level; and a majority of the workers’
compensation costs are attributed to employees who were injured prior to
The IG has aggressively gone after fraud, having saved the
Postal Service more than $289 million from future losses, and nearly
$52 million in medical and disability judgments associated with
We agree with the IG's call for reforms to
FECA and we will continue to work with Congress on reforms that will
return the Postal Service to profitability.