• on Mar 9th, 2009 in Products & Services | 16 comments
    The Office of Inspector General (OIG) independently audits the efficiency and effectiveness of Postal Service programs such as the online shipping solution Click-N-Ship®. However, OIG employees are also customers of the Postal Service, with their own experiences. Tara, a member of the OIG’s Communication team, tried Click-N-Ship® over the holidays and volunteered to write about her experience.
     
    I knew Click-N-Ship® existed through promotions and obviously being an employee of the USPS OIG. And even though I pride myself on being very tech-savvy, I was hesitant to use it. To me there was just something comforting about making the time consuming trip to the post office to pay a real person to take and ship my package. Then I thought to myself, “I shop online, why not give this a shot?” Now I am a raving fan.
     

    With a simple digital kitchen scale, my computer, and credit card, I shipped approximately 50 packages out during the holidays from the comfort of my own home. Most were letter-sized, so I first placed an online order for the free Priority Mail envelopes the Postal Service provides online. They were delivered to my door within a few days. It was fairly easy to set up the account, enter addresses, print the shipping labels, and complete transactions. For no additional charge, I scheduled a carrier pick-up and confirmed delivery of my packages online. In fact, the carrier even left a notification that he picked up my packages.

    The only problem I encountered was not being able to ship anything for a day or so during the Postal Service’s technical glitch in the system in mid-December. Though mildly inconvenient, it wasn’t that big of deal to wait until the next day when the system was fixed. So now whenever someone tells me they are going to the Post Office to ship something, I tell them to give Click-N-Ship® a try.

    Have you ever used Click-N-Ship® and what was your experience? Was your experience similar to Tara’s? If not, what happened? What ideas do you have for the Postal Service to promote or improve this service?

  • on Mar 2nd, 2009 in Pricing & Rates | 5 comments

    Have you ever wondered why the Postal Service offers free rates for the blind, balloting materials for overseas voters, and items sent by some consular officials? Or why it offers reduced rates to qualified nonprofit organizations, election officials, local newspapers, and publishers of educational material? It is because Congress mandates that the Postal Service provide free or reduced rates to these mailers and then appropriates money to reimburse the Postal Service for the revenue “forgone.”

    Initially, Congress reimbursed the Postal Service for all types of reduced rate mail. Over the years, as rates increased and the number and size of nonprofit organizations grew, the revenue forgone appropriation more than doubled from $441 million in fiscal year (FY) 1972 to $970 million in FY 1985. The increase spurred a debate about who should bear the cost of reduced rates: taxpayers or other mailers. To address these concerns as well as other matters, the Congress passed the Revenue Forgone Reform Act of 1993. Under the Act, the annual appropriation for free postage for the blind, overseas absentee balloting materials, and consular officials continued; however, new appropriations for reduced rate mail stopped. The Act required nonprofit mailers to cover more institutional or overhead cost and shifted the rest of these costs to other mailers.

    Currently, nonprofit mailers that use Standard Mail pay approximately 60 percent of commercial Standard Mail regular rates. The remaining share is absorbed within rates charged to other mailers. Congress continues to reimburse the Postal Service for revenue forgone for free mail, but the amount appropriated is usually less than the Postal Service requests. For example, although the Postal Service requested $124 million in FY 2008 to cover the costs of revenue forgone, free mail and adjustments from previous years, it received only about $89 million.

    What do you think are some of the pros and cons of offering free or reduced rates to certain organizations? Tell us what you think.

  • 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?

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