Several USPS initiatives designed to reduce workplace illness and injury-related costs have shown results, an IG report has said, while noting that the Postal Service still accounts for a disproportionate amount of claims and costs government-wide in the FECA program.
For example, an initiative to reduce motor vehicle and industrial accidents resulted in a decrease in total accidents over 2015-2019 of about 7 percent. An initiative to increase returns to work resulted in a similar-sized decrease, of 8 percent, of the number of employees on the FECA “periodic roll”—employees receiving workers’ compensation benefits and having disabilities that are expected to be permanent or indefinite.
However, the Postal Service with about 633,000 employees accounts for about half of all cases and costs under the FECA program, compared with the 2.1 million employees in other agencies also under the program. Its annual cash outlay for workers’ compensation costs is nearly $1.4 billion and its estimated long-term cost is $19 billion, the report said.
The IG noted that some private sector organizations have taken steps to reduce compensation costs that are not allowed in the FECA program, such as limiting the amount and duration of benefits, allowing settlement of workers’ compensation cases, and requiring claimants to use in-network physicians and generic drugs. The report estimated that USPS could save $385 million annually if it were allowed to take such steps.
It also noted that there have been numerous proposals from the White House and elsewhere in recent years to reduce the costs of the FECA program that are charged back to the employing agencies, although none of them have been enacted.
One such recommendation has been to require compensationers who are not expected to return to work to change to disability retirement rather than remain in the FECA program. The report said that nearly 13,000 persons who had worked for USPS and are still drawing FECA benefits rather than retirement benefits are above age 50, about 2,600 above age 70 and three are above age 100.
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