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Attempt to Push Benefits Off Cliff

December 17, 2012

The Honorable Joseph Lieberman Chairman
The Honorable Susan Collins Ranking Member
Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20150

The Honorable Darrell Issa Chairman
The Honorable Elijah Cummings Ranking Member
Committee on Oversight & Government Reform
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear Sirs & Madam:

It has come to our attention that negotiations are ongoing to reconcile differences between the House and Senate-passed versions of legislation to reform the U.S. Postal Service (H.R. 2309 and S. 1789, respectively) in an effort to expedite passage of a bill during the current lame-duck session of Congress. In so doing, we ask that you keep in mind the name of Donald Tyson. Donald Tyson is a former Navy SEAL and Federal Air Marshal who has upheld his commitment to serve and protect the American people. Tyson’s career took him to most of the continents and several hotbeds of violence in the world. As a result of his service, Donald Tyson is now permanently disabled. He has sacrificed both his heart and his spine, both of which are debilitated to the point of limiting his movements and quality of life. Despite the statistics, he has survived several open heart surgeries. Don Tyson is also one of those federal employees who may face severe and unwarranted reductions to their Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) benefits should Title III of S. 1789, the "21st Century Postal Service Act," become law.

Given his current condition, the financial and emotional stress that such a reduction would place on Tyson is unnecessary, unwarranted, and does a disservice to a true American hero. Even if Tyson was somehow exempt from the benefit cuts of Title III, there are still countless other injured federal law enforcement officers with similar stories who would not be so lucky. Future heroes, if disabled, would be ineligible for the same level of benefits that Tyson is now receiving. It is for these reasons that the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) remains adamantly opposed to the government-wide reforms of FECA included in Title III. While FLEOA does not disagree with the need to reform either the U.S. Postal Service or FECA, attempting to do both in such rapid fashion will cause unintended consequences to American heroes.

As was the case when the Title III provisions were first offered in 2011, we remain disappointed that the Senate would choose to treat disabled law enforcement officers in this manner. Over the past five years, we have attempted to work with your staffs and others to institute true reforms of FECA, the Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP), and the federal disability system that can save taxpayer dollars and will not adversely impact those federal law enforcement officers currently disabled or the families they have left behind. We have done so because we agree that FECA is in need of systemic reforms, as it was not designed to handle the unique federal law enforcement injuries that occur at the hands of criminals, terrorists, and drug trafficking organizations. We have advocated for reforms that would honor those injured federal law enforcement officers’ sacrifices with a better OWCP support structure to allow them to heal and return to work, which 98 percent do. And we have argued for a system that ensures that those who "gave all" and are either permanently disabled or have left behind families, receive a simplified and rightful compensation under FECA or a federal disability retirement. Title III does none of these things.

Instead, as noted in two reports from GAO this month, Title III of S. 1789 would reduce benefits for disabling injuries far below what federal employees would have received had they been able to work a full career. In some cases, up to 35 percent less than if they were not injured and retired after 30 years under the Federal Employees Retirement System. GAO also found that any proposal to reduce and equalize FECA compensation would have a disproportionate impact on those beneficiaries with dependents. These findings and others raise serious questions about the overall impact of S. 1789 on injured law enforcement officers and their families. It also shows that Title III should be reconsidered if we hope to enact FECA reforms that do not require the federal government to impose draconian measures on those who sacrificed themselves to preserve and defend it.

As with the Senate's consideration of S. 1789, we strongly urge you in any compromise postal reform legislation to either remove Title III from the Act in its entirety or replace the current contents with the text of H.R. 2465, the "Federal Workers' Compensation Modernization and Improvement Act," which passed the House of Representatives last November by a unanimous voice vote. This legislation is a sensible compromise that will streamline the claims process for workers who sustain a traumatic injury in a designated zone of armed conflict, expand the Labor Department's (DOL) ability to collect from third parties and combat fraud, and promote greater accountability in the program.

On behalf of the more than 26,000 members of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, I again ask you to ensure the United States of America lives up to its commitments and provides injured federal law enforcement officers and their families the support they have earned. Thank you for your attention and please do not hesitate to contact me if we can provide you with any additional information or assistance.

Respectfully,

Jon Adler
National President

CC: The Honorable John Kline, Chairman, Committee on Education and the Workforce
The Honorable George Miller, Ranking Member, Committee on Education and the Workforce
The Honorable Daniel Akaka, Chairman, Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia