By now, most Postal employees have become aware of the National Reassessment Program (NRP). The USPS began Pilot programs to test the NRP over three years ago, but fully adopted the program nationwide in the summer of 2009. As the program spread through the biggest districts and offices first, it eventually reached even the smallest and most remote areas of the country, affecting every employee of the USPS on at least some level. Almost none of it was fair.
The plan was simple. Stop providing modified work to injured employees. Tell them to go home, that no work was available, and if your injury was job-related, to file for federal workers compensation and OWCP. This tactic worked better than they thought it would.
Not only was the post office “managing” the problem of injured workers, they saved the payroll and decreased the costs of federal workers compensation claims. Unfortunately, the OWCP must deny claims for wage loss benefits if the employee is not completely disabled but could provide at least some useful and efficient service in some capacity (modified work). It is not OWCP’s responsibility to pay the employee, but rather the employing agency’s responsibility to provide modified duty. Simply put, “Take it up with your union.”
The union offices have been flooded with grievances and complaints. Some private suites and at least one class action suit has been filed along with EEOC claims and MSPB filings. Some are successful, many are not.
While this has happened to countless postal employees, many other agencies are at risk of similar circumstances. Modified duty, that is work that is not a bid position, is not protected by the same standards that solidify the more permanent bid jobs.
Modified jobs can be classified as Limited or Light duty based upon whether or not the injury was caused by work activity. Both types of jobs are supplied to workers who can’t fully complete the original jobs. Because there is no official job description, the position is not graded or classified and is given on an as- needed or as-available basis. This gives the management a tremendous amount of authority as to who can and who cannot get the modified work (who “deserves” the consideration).
The injured employee has trouble completing his bid assignments, but has limited options –at the time he needs the most help! Most federal employees are not aware of a disability program that is available to them.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has an occupational disability benefit that is built in to your FERS package called Federal Disability Retirement. Federal Disability Retirement offers four main benefits that can make a huge difference on your retirement. On Federal Disability Retirement you will receive a secure monthly annuity, creditable years of service until age 62, health and life insurance continuation, and the ability to work in the private sector and earn even more money. These benefits combined together can allow you to make more money on Federal Disability Retirement than you were in your federal position alone.
The disability benefit can provide a very good alternative to an injured employee who knows that a return to their bid position is highly unlikely. It is a chance at a new start in life. Even if you are currently working in a modified position, you may still be eligible to get out of the federal government, keep all of your long term benefits intact and move into a new career.
Every person’s situation and potential claim is different. It is important that you review your options carefully and understand all of your potential benefits before making any decisions about your future. That’s what we are here for, schedule a free consultation to learn how we can help you.