• on Feb 23rd, 2009 in OIG | 27 comments

    The Postal Service funds workers’ compensation benefits for employees who sustain job-related injuries. In FY 2008, the Postal Service incurred over $1.2 billion in workers' compensation expenses. In addition, the Postal Service estimated its liability for future workers’ compensation costs at nearly $8 billion. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) administers the workers’ compensation program and then bills the Postal Service for reimbursement. While the Office of Inspector General (OIG) recognizes that fraudulent workers’ compensation claims make up a small percentage of the total claims, the OIG commits significant resources toward identifying claimants who defraud the system. In FY 2008, OIG investigations saved the Postal Service more than $197 million in future workers’ compensation costs, and the OIG arrested 51 individuals for workers’ compensation fraud. The following example highlights one of our recent successes.

    On October 2, 2008, a former Postal Service mail processing clerk from Montana was convicted in U.S. District Court on four counts of fraud following a 3-day trial in Billings, Montana. This former postal clerk had not worked since December 1986 and had received more than $650,000 in workers’ compensation payments since that time. She considered herself so disabled that she could not even “bend over to cut her toenails.” During a month-long surveillance in the fall of 2006, OIG agents saw a much more active woman as they videotaped her using a chain saw and wood splitter, unloading 10-foot logs from her pickup, and stacking large chunks of wood. (See above for some of the video footage.) On January 21, 2009, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Richard Cebull ruled that the former clerk is suffering from a mental disorder and committed her to a federal medical center for up to 20 years. This successful investigation saved the Postal Service approximately $781,000 in future workers’ compensation payments. Do you have any suggestions for preventing workers’ compensation fraud?

  • on Feb 17th, 2009 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 22 comments
    The Postal Service requires full addresses on most mail, but this creates unnecessary complications for small local businesses such as pizza parlors and dry cleaners that simply want to send a flyer to every address in the surrounding area. It would be much easier for them to bring a stack of unaddressed mail pieces to the Postal Service and let the Postal Service deliver one to each address.

    The Postal Service previously worked on a concept called Neighborhood Mail to meet this need. Using Neighborhood Mail, a business could send unaddressed mail to potential customers in the community it serves. The Postal Service would tell the business how many pieces were necessary to cover the delivery area and charge it for delivery. Such a service is not unusual. Many postal services in other countries offer unaddressed mail service.

    Neighborhood Mail, however, has its opponents. Newspapers, which compete with mail for local advertising, opposed the development of the Neighborhood Mail concept in the past. Neighborhood Mail would also compete with mail consolidators and alternate delivery providers which currently help small businesses deliver information to the community. In addition, unaddressed mail could raise environmental concerns, so the Postal Service might want to offer households the ability to opt out of receiving Neighborhood Mail.

    What do you think about Neighborhood Mail? Are there other services the Postal Service could introduce to help local communities?

  • on Feb 9th, 2009 in Products & Services | 7 comments
    Merchandise Return Service and Parcel Return Service allow merchants to pay the shipping charges for their customers' returns. Merchandise Return Service is the end-to-end version, and Parcel Return Service provides workshare discounts for mailers willing to pick up the packages within the Postal Service's network. The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General independently audits the efficiency and effectiveness of Postal Service programs such as Merchandise Return Service and Parcel Return Service. However, OIG employees are also customers of the Postal Service with their own experiences. Nicole, an OIG employee, recently used Parcel Return Service. She agreed to share her experience on Pushing the Envelope.

    For the 2008 holiday season I tried the all-online shopping approach for the first time. I had my items picked out, purchased, delivered to my door, and even wrapped by December 12! It was an unprecedented feat for me personally and I was overjoyed at the lack of stress involved — that is until I found out the big surprise gift of a digital camera for my Mom turned out to be duplicated by another friend of hers! What does this have to do with the USPS OIG blog? We’ll get there…

    After resigning myself to the fact that the other camera was actually better than the one I purchased, it became clear that I would have to return the item, and my dread mounted. What a hassle — there was no ‘store’ for the virtual vendor I purchased it from, so I’d have to find the invoice, repackage the thing, and get it back to the online seller. Just thinking about how long that would take gave me a headache. That is until I logged into the vendor site and saw that they had something called USPS Parcel Return Service. I thought whoa, what is this? And to my delight, I found that with two mouse clicks and my printer, I could get the return invoice for the package and a pre-paid USPS shipping label for the box! It took me less than 5 minutes to plop the item and invoice in the box, fold and tape the label to it, and be on my way to drop it at a local post office. There was even an option to schedule a pickup of the package free of charge by my local carrier, but I felt entirely too guilty at how easy it was to that point to take advantage.

    So, I stopped by the local post office on my way to work, went in the main lobby, and dropped it straight in the parcel box. E-mails from the vendor confirmed the arrival of the return package, and just this week I received the refund of the purchase price. Easy as that! So next holiday season, I’m not going to let this minor blip keep me from shopping online. Instead, I’m going to look for more vendors who offer this convenient service and online-shop away!

    Have you used Parcel Return Service or Merchandise Return Service? Was your experience similar to Nicole’s? If not, what happened, and how would you improve these services?

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