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2/15/17 Congressmen re-introduce bill to expand MSPB Appeal Rights to Postal Managers.

Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and David McKinley introduced H.R. 942 the Postal Employees Appeal Rights Amendments Act to expand U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board appeals rights to mid-level U.S. Postal Service Management.
“This is about ensuring a fair review process. All Postal Service employees should have the basic right to appeal an adverse personnel action,” said Connolly, House Oversight and Government Reform Vice-Ranking Member. “Unfortunately, up until now, some mid-level managers have been left exposed without access to MSPB appeal rights. Our legislation seeks to remedy this unintended carve-out.”

“All Postal Service workers should have the right to appeal personnel decisions that will negatively impact them. Our legislation will create a fair process that will protect these employees from unjust decision making,” McKinley said. “This bipartisan reform will make government more efficient and I’m hopeful we can pass it through the House very soon,” said McKinley.
Despite the intent of Congress to confer appeal rights to most USPS management personnel, approximately 7,500 mid-level management employees within the U.S. Postal Service do not possess the right to appeal adverse personnel actions to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board. This has resulted in an inequity among USPS employees and created unnecessary costs, and in some cases, prevented the disclosure of fraud, waste, and abuse.

H.R. 942 would extend MSPB appeal rights over adverse personnel actions to any Postal Service employee who is a non-bargaining unit career and non-career employee in a supervisory, professional, technical, clerical, administrative, or managerial position covered by the Executive and Administrative Schedule; and has completed 1 year of current continuous service in the same or similar positions.
This legislation has also been included in the comprehensive Postal Service Reform Act, HR 756.
3/16/17 The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved H.R. 756, the Postal Reform Act of 2017 - "Question and Answers Below"

By voice vote the bipartisan bill would help to stabilize postal finances and ensure its operational viability. H.R. 756 was the subject of UPMA lobbying efforts during the association's Legislative Advocacy Days, on the last two days of February. At today's committee meeting, Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and other committee members publicly thanked UPMA for its efforts in support of the measure. 

Five amendments, other than a technical amendment authored by Chaffetz, were offered at the committee meeting. The chairman and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) opposed all the amendments but one, since those amendments would have destroyed the careful balance so important to the bipartisan bill. 

Rep.Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) offered an amendment to require the Postal service to notify the member of Congress of it intent to close or relocate a retail postal closing or relocation at least 10 days prior to notifying the general public. The amendment passed by voice vote, with the support for Chaffetz and Cummings. 

Rep. Darrel Issa offered four amendments; three were withdrawn, prior to a vote, and one was defeated on a voice vote. (Only Issa voted "yes".) The defeated amendment would have converted door-delivery to centralized if the Postal Service failed to break-even. Two of the withdrawn amendments also dealt with centralized delivery; the other withdrawn amendment amendment would have implemented 5-day mail delivery under certain circumstance. 

The next stops on the legislative trail are the House Ways and Means Committee, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Both committees have jurisdiction over the Medicare program and Medicare integration is a key element of HR 756. 

The committee also approved H.R. 760, legislation introduced by Reps. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) and David McKinley (R-WV), to enable the investment of a portion of the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund in index funds modeled after those established for Thrift Savings Fund investments.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS H.R. 756 The Postal Reform Act of 2017

1. Why am I paying less for Medicare Part B from my SS then my fellow retirees who only receive a federal retirement?

The Medicare law includes a hold harmless provision for annuitants receiving Social Security benefits in those years when the COLA non-existent or very low. This hold harmless provision also cover FERS annuitants, since they receive Social Security benefits; however, the Medicare law does not create such protection for those who do not receive Social Security, such as CSRS annuitants. UPMA has supported legislation introduced by Rep. Titus to provide the same hold harmless protection for ALL Medicare recipients. 

2. Will we be able to continue keep our chosen health plan

Inasmuch as there will be a postal-version of all FEHBP plans with 1,500 or more enrollees, the answer is yes. 

3. Will we be forced to take Medicare Part D?

The postal-FEHBP plan would continue to provide prescription drug benefits for Medicare-covered Postal Service annuitants and family, but through a Medicare Part D "employer group waiver plan." Therefore, FEHBP would continue to provide drug coverage, but the USPS would receive the subsidy for providing the coverage and covered-annuitants would benefit from a reduced FEHBP premium. You would not have to separately enroll in Part D.

4. It was always my understanding that if I was paying for one of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plans, I would not be penalize if I decided to enroll in Medicare after I turned 65?

That is incorrect, a late penalty is assessed if an individual enrolls in Medicare after the enrollment window closes, upon reaching the age of 65. Under current law, there is no FEHBP exemption. Under the proposed legislation, the late penalty would be waived for a finite period of time, 

Again I went to D.C. and did what was asked. I and Dave Cook visited our Congressman Tom Suozzi at the office in Huntington as well as in D.C. That does not change how we feel about the unanswered questions. I am enrolled in Medicare Part A & B. I was vested in SS in 1979. That was 30 years before I retired. I paid back my military time. I switched over to FERS the last time it was offered. I am still only receiving half of my SS.  

FEHBP-covered Postal retirees who are currently enrolled in Medicare would see that their premiums would be less than the FEHBP premiums of other federal retirees due to Medicare integration. Actuaries project about a 8-9% savings in the total premium. 

Trump Budget Targets Federal-Postal Community; Chaffetz to Exit Congress June 30
Posted by Bob Levi on 05/19/17

Early next week, the White House Office of Management and Budget will unveil President Trump’s detailed fiscal year 2018 budget proposal. According to press accounts, UPMA members should be prepared to actively communicate their strong objection to numerous provisions included in it. Among the most severe attacks are those directed against federal and postal retirement. The Trump Budget would:

Increase FERS employee contributions by 1 percentage point each year until it equals the employer contribution. This could be about a 6 percent increase in the employee contribution.
 Base future retirement benefits on the average of the highest 5 years of salary, rather than the current high-3
 Abolish COLAs for current and future FERS annuitants
 Reduce the CSRS COLA by 0.5 percent
 Eliminate supplemental payments for FERS retirees who leave service, beginning in calendar 2018.

On Thursday, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) announced that he will vacate his congressional seat on June 30. His departure may complicate House of Representatives consideration of HR 756, the Postal Reform Act of 2017. This the postal relief bill that he introduced with the ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017, 8:22 AM

Legislative News
House Budget Committee to Consider Federal Retirement Cuts. Tomorrow, the House Budget Committee will begin consideration of a budget resolution drafted by committee chair, Rep. Diane Black (R-TN). The proposal would, in part, increase federal and postal employee contributions for the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) and eliminate the supplemental retirement for FERS employees who retiree prior to Social Security eligibility. 
These two proposals are included in President Trump's fiscal year 2018 budget.
As was discussed at UPMA's February UPMA member retirement benefits is the congressional budget process -- more specifically, "budget reconciliation." Budget reconciliation is a vehicle buy which the Budget Committee assigns cuts to the committee with jurisdiction over certain federal programs. 

The House Budget Committee's just-released budget document instructs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the House committee responsible for federal retirement, to come up with $32 billion in budget savings. This amount reflects a 6-year phase-in of a 6% increase in FERS contributions and the elimination of the FERS 
supplement. The budget document also contemplates the elimination of FERS. It also appears that the budget savings will be used to boost military spending and fund tax cuts.

UPMA members should contact their
members of Congress to oppose the federal and postal retirement hits.

House to Consider Cuts to Retirement and Health Benefits This Week
Posted by Bob Levi on 10/01/17

During the latter part of this week, the House of Representatives will vote on a budget bill (H.Con.Res. 71) that would, in part, require the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to slash postal and federal benefits by at least $
32 billion
 over the next decade. In addition, the budget bill would move the Postal Service on-budget and recommends enactment of Postal reform like H.R. 756, the Postal Reform Act of 2017. Meanwhile, the Senate Budget Committee will be considering a yet-to-be numbered budget bill that does not include any of these provisions.

The House proposed cuts are in the form of “reconciliation instructions” to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and targets federal and postal retirement and health benefits. Although H.Con.Res. 71 does not identify the specific cuts, the only programs within the jurisdiction of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee that would yield such cuts are retirement and health benefits. Consequently, increased retirement and FEHBP contributions, reduced retirement COLAs and benefits are all real possibilities. 

In addition, H.Con.Res. 71 calls for the reversal of a provision included in the Omnibus Reconciliation Act 0f 1989 that took the Postal Service off-budget. The existing statute means that postal revenue and expenses have not been part of the federal budget, and ensures that postal appropriations are not subject to automatic budget sequestration. The Postal Service’s only appropriation the year was $35 million, which reimbursed to the agency for overseas voting, nonprofit discounts and mail for the blind. Placing the USPS on-budget jeopardizes the nominal appropriation and could lead to greater congressional entanglement in postal policies.

Early this week, the FAIR Coalition – the association representing postal and federal employee and retiree groups – will be sending a letter asking members of the House to oppose any budget bill that contains “reconciliation instructions” to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and to convey their opposition to the House leadership. It is also crucial that UPMA members communicate UPMA’s strong opposition of the “reconciliation instructions” to their members of Congress. The U.S. Capitol switchboard number is 202-224-3121. 

President Trump Nominates Three to USPS Board of Governors
Posted by Bob Levi on 10/30/17

On October 26, President Donald Trump made three nominations to the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors. Currently, the only two board members are Postmaster General Megan Brennan and Deputy Postmaster General Ron Stroman.

 The Trump nominees include former Postal Service Inspector General David Williams, former Republican National Committee Chairman Robert Duncan, and Pennsylvania businessman Calvin Tucker. David Williams has extensive postal experience in evaluating and making recommendations regarding postal operations and finances. Robert Duncan is a former Kentucky banker, and served as chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority (a position held by former PMG Marvin Runyan) and chairman of American Crossroads PAC, a major GOP super-PAC. Calvin Tucker has been the CEO and held a number of executive positions in the financial industry, and co-hosted a Philadelphia-based talk-show. 

 The nominees will be referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. At the time of referral the committee will, in all likelihood, schedule prompt hearings, with committee full Senate consideration later this year.
PRC Finds Current Rate System Fails to Meet Objectives and Proposes Alternative
Posted by Bob Levi on 12/02/17

On December 1, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) concluded that the postage rate-setting system created in the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act has failed to maintain the financial health of the USPS as intended in the law, has weakened the high quality service standards and has not increased pricing efficiency. In sum, the decade-old statutory postage rate regime has not met many of the the criteria outlined in the 2006 postal legislation. 

 As a result, on December 1, the PRC proposed three changes in the way postage rates will be adjusted, in the future, to improve the USPS finances and operations. First, the PRC would grant the USPS 2 percent of rate authority per class of mail above the consumer price index (CPI) for each of the next 5 years. Additionally, the USPS would be provided up to 1 percent of rate authority per class of mail per year, contingent on the USPS meeting or exceeding specified efficiency and service standards. Second, the PRC would require a minimum rate increase of 2 percent for postal products that do not cover their attributable costs. And, third, the PRC would establish two rate adjustmen bands for work-share discounts "pass-throughs." 

 The PRC has established a three-month comment period, ending on March 1, 2018. UPMA intends to contribute comments. No doubt this proposal will generate considerable debate within the broad postal community, particularly among the major mailers. Moreover, this proposal may encourage Congress to accelerate the legislative process with regard to consideration of HR 756. Indeed, PRC Commissioner Marc Action wrote in his supplementary comments to the PRC announcement:

 "The last few years have seen significant bipartisan efforts in Congress to craft such reform, and it has yet to come to fruition. The Commission does not have the ability to allow the Postal Service to re-amortize unfunded liabilities, administer employee benefits differently, change the frequency of delivery, or deliver profitable items restricted by statute. In short, there is no action the Commission can take to substitute for meaningful legislative reform, and I urge Congress to continue to work toward that goal."

White House FY 2019 Budget Hits Postal Employees and Retirees
Posted by Bob Levi on 02/12/18

Today, President Donald Trump submitted his $4.4 trillion fiscal year 2019 budget to Congress. While the budget projects a 2027 budget deficit of $450 billion, it still slashes over $155 billion from benefits upon which active and retired postal and federal employee rely. In part, the budget proposes to:
•More than triple the retirement contributions of most postal and federal employees
•Change the FEHBP employer contribution rate to encourage beneficiaries to enroll in health plans deemed to be "high-performing" and "high-value"
•Eliminate the FERS COLA 
•Reduce CSRS COLA by 0.5 percent
•Abolish the FERS retirement supplement for federal and postal employees who retiree prior to Social Security eligibility
•Replace the current annuity calculation of the highest 3 salary-earning years with the highest 5; and
•Dramatically reduce the yield on the Thrift Savings Plan's G-Fund investments.
The budget also proposes unspecified reforms to the Postal Service that includes changing postal rate-setting, modifying the mail delivery schedule and using more efficient delivery methods. In addition, the budget assumes that postal employees and retirees will suffer the same benefit cuts as all active and retired federal employees.  

 The upcoming UPMA Legislative Summit will provide a crucial opportunity for UPMA members to voice opposition to these proposals that adversely impact UPMA members
Senate Postal Bill (S. 2629) Introduced

Posted by Bob Levi on 03/23/18

Yesterday, March 22, Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced S. 2629, the Postal Reform Act of 2018. The legislation is the Senate version of HR 756, the House postal reform bill. H.R. 756 was approved by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last year. S. 2629 shares most of the core provisions of H.R. 756; however, there are key differences.

 Both bills would integrate FEHBP and Medicare coverage for Medicare-eligible postal retirees in order to reduce the Postal Service's health care liability. In addition, both include a 3-year USPS premium subsidy for newly enrolled Part B beneficiaries. However, S. 2629 includes three waivers of Medicare Part B coverage: (1) financial hardship, (2) Veterans Administration health coverage and (3) the lack of Medicare providers in the retiree's area of residence. 

 Both bills call for a more accurate calculation of the USPS' pension liability. In addition, both bills would amortize USPS' remaining health care liability. While H.R. 756 would amortize 100 percent of the remaining liability over the next 35 years, S. 2629 would amortize 80 percent over the next 40 years; the remaining 20 percent would be secured with future postal property sales. (S. 2629 would not require the sales.) S. 2629 would establish a procedure for the USPS to seek waivers from its annual amortization payment through the Postal Regulatory Commission. The Senate bill would also offset the increased Medicare obligation through a one-time $13 billion transfer of funds from the account in which amortization payments have been deposited in the past to the Medicare Trust Fund. 

 Both bills would reduce the number of presidential-nominated Board of Governors from nine to five, would make the Postal Inspector General (IG) a presidential appointee, would create a Chief Innovation Officer within the USPS, and would reform the way in which the USPS awards vendor contracts.

 Both bills would restore one-half of the exigent rate increase that expired in April 2016. S. 2629 would also require the Postal IG to conduct a study relating to the rates charged to "underwater" postal products (i.e., magazines), and would require the USPS to submit to Congress a plan for its long-term solvency.

 While H.R. 756 would authorize the voluntary conversion of residential mail deliveries from door delivery to alternative locations (e.g., curbside and cluster boxes) and phase in alternative deliveries for business addresses, S. 2629 contains no delivery conversion language. S. 2629 would permit the shipping of wine, beer and spirits.

 Both HR 756 and S. 2629 would expand MSBP appeal rights for EAS level employees and would suspend further post office hour reductions and post office re-classifications, pending an IG report on POStPlan. In addition, S. 2629 would require an IG report on USPS compliance with the statute governing "consultations" and EAS pay talks.  

 Upon introduction of S. 2629, UPMA Co-Presidents Tony Leonardi and Sean Acord commented: "The United Postmasters and Managers of America (UPMA) applauds the efforts of Senators Carper, Moran, Heitkamp and McCaskill in introducing bipartisan legislation to further the goal of providing financial relief to the U.S Postal Service. UPMA looks forward to continue working with these Senators and other members of Congress to sustain the U.S. Postal Service, a proven national treasure.”

Link to the Senate press release on S. 2629. 

President Signs Into Law FY 2018 Budget Bill -- No Postal or Benefit Hits

Posted by Bob Levi on 03/26/18

On Friday, March 23, as Congress was leaving the Capitol for its two-week Easter/Passover Recess, President Trump signed into law H.R. 1626, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018. This legislation funds the government through the end of the current fiscal year. 

 UPMA was attentive to any attempts to use this bill to cut postal employee and retiree benefits.The legislation did not include such provisions. 

 Although the 2,149 page bill included a variety of substantive "policy riders," an attempt to attach postal reform legislation to it was abandoned. However, H.R. 1626, as enacted, includes a number of provisions that relate to the Postal Service. In addition to providing $58 million to reimburse the USPS for mail for the blind and overseas voting, H.R. 1626 provides $94 million for monitoring the illicit importation of opioids though USPS international air mail facilities.The appropriations bill also includes such perennial postal provisions as the prohibition against using appropriated funds to close or consolidate rural and small post offices, and the prohibition of reducing 6-day residential mail delivery. 

 As mentioned in the Legislative News post of March 23, UPMA is supporting a resurgent effort in the Senate to take up postal reform legislation. S. 2629, the Postal Reform Act of 2018, is pending on the Senate calendar.  
President Trump Signs Executive Order Creating Postal Task Force
Posted by Bob Levi on 04/13/18

Last night (4/12/2018), President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order that establishes a White House Task Force on the Postal Service. According to the order, the Task Force is instructed " to evaluate the operations and finances of the USPS." In doing so, the group will evaluate the package delivery market, the decline in first-class mail volume and its implications, the definition of universal service, the role of the USPS in rural communities, and the state of the USPS business model, workforce and pricing. The Task Force is charged with reporting back its observations and recommendations relating to legislative and administrative changes by mid-August. 

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will chair the Task Force; other members will include the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, and other appropriate department heads. During its deliberations the Task Force is instructed to consult with the Postmaster General and the Chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission. Also, the Task Force shall engage with the Attorney General and the Secretary of Labor.

Office of Personnel Managment Proposes Retirement Cuts and Senate Panel Approves Two USPS Board Of Govenor Nominees
Posted by Bob Levi on 05/10/18

On May 4, the White House Office of Personnel Management (OPM) proposed $143.5 billion in cuts to federal-postal retirement programs. In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, OPM Director Jeff Pon transmitted a legislative proposal that would increase employee contributions to 7.25% within the next 5 years (most UPMA members currently contribute .8%), increase the period of service used to compute annuities from 3 years to 5 years for new retirees, reduce the Civil Service Retirement System COLA by .5%, eliminate the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) COLA, and eliminate the FERS annuity supplement for new retirees and survivor annuitants. Generally, OPM's legislative package reflects the items included in the White House Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal, submitted to Congress earlier this year. It is unclear if the the Administration's proposal will be added to pending legislation, introduced as free-standing bill, included in a reconciliation bill, or considered at all. You can be sure that UPMA will be fighting this latest attempt to cut UPMA benefits. It is important that UPMA members contact their Representatives to oppose the OPM proposal.  

On May 7, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the nominations of former USPS Inspector General David Williams and former Tennessee Valley Authority Chairman Robert Duncan for the USPS Board of Governors. The next step in the process is a confirmation vote by the full Senate that has yet to be scheduled, but could come up at any time. 
White House Official Under Fire About USPS Privatization at Congressional Hearing 
by Bob Levy

Earlier today, the Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) came under fire by members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, regarding the White House proposal to privatize the U.S. Postal Service. The privatization plan was part of a report issued on June 21 by the Executive Office of the President entitled, "Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century." Although OMB Deputy Director Margaret Weichert testified before the House committee on the entire report, a number of committee members zeroed in on President Trump's plan to privatize the Postal Service. 

At the outset of the hearing, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), explained to the OMB official that instead of working with Congress to improve the Postal Service, the Administration dismissed the two bipartisan bills pending in Congress (H.R. 6076 and S. 2629), one approved overwhelmingly by the committee before which she was testifying. Instead, the White House came to its own conclusions, without even waiting for its own Task Force on the Postal System to report its findings later this summer. Cummings concluded: "President Trump’s proposal to privatize the Postal Service is disorganized, unilateral, nonsensical, and frankly, incompetent." 

In response to a question from Rep. James Comer (R-KY), Deputy Director Weichert declared that "privatization is a vision in all scenarios." In the near-term, the Administration seeks to stabilize finances in order to prepare for privatization. During questioning by Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), with input from Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Weichert conceded that the she could not determine whether the White House took into account the unique 2006 statutory requirement for the USPS to pre-fund retiree health benefits, as part of its conclusion about the state of postal fiances and its proposal to privatize the agency.

The most damning line of questioning, however, was posed by Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) who hammered away as to why the Postal Service was not even asked to present a reorganization plan to the White House, while other federal agencies were granted such an opportunity. Weichert could not explain why the USPS was closed-out of the process. Lawrence also explained how it is Congress' constitutional responsibility to be a steward for the Postal Service.  

On Monday, UPMA conducted a webinar for all Chapter Legislative and Political Action Chairs on confronting the White House postal privatization proposal. It will be important for UPMA members to touch base with their chapter's Legislative Chair for more information and to communicate with the White House and members of Congress to express strong opposition to the plan. 

The White House Switchboard number is 202-456-1414 and the Capitol Switchboard is 202-224-3121.
Bipartisan House Resolution Introduced Opposing Postal Privatization 
By Bob Levy 

On July 16, Representatives Steve Lynch (D-MA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) introduced H.Res. 993, a resolution expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the U.S. Postal Service should remain a government entity and not be subjected to privatization. Eight members of Congress, representing both political parties, joined Lynch and Davis on the measure. Although H.Res 993 does not have the force of law, it sends a strong signal to the White House that the President's proposal to privatize the Postal Service will meet strong resistance on Capitol Hill. UPMA members should ask their members of Congress to cosponsor H.Res 993.