- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 26, 2010

More than 100 U.S. Postal Service employees over 90 years old are collecting workers compensation - a fact one U.S. senator calls troubling, arguing that workers ought to be moved to retirement rolls from which payouts would be less expensive.

Under the federal workers compensation system, employees get up to 75 percent of their salaries tax free, compared with under 60 percent they would receive under the retirement system.

At a committee hearing earlier this month, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said there were dozens of examples of people over 90 in the Postal Service still collecting workers compensation.

“Eighty percent of the Postal Service’s expenses are work force related,” she said.

“At the Postal Service, more than 1,000 employees currently receiving workers compensation benefits are 80 years or older,” she said. “Incredibly, 132 of these individuals are 90 years of age and older and there are three who are 98.”

Since Mrs. Collins said there’s little chance these older employees are going to return to work, the employees should be moved into the retirement system.

But Postal Service spokesman Gerald J. McKiernan said the Postal Service has no control over the federal workers compensation system, and he pointed out that the same situation exists across the government.

The U.S. Labor Department, in a formal statement responding to questions from The Washington Times, said the Federal Employees Compensation Act “does not contain any authority to convert or transfer claimants” from workers compensation rolls to the retirement system.

Workers have the right to choose between getting workers compensation or retirement benefits. And since workers compensation benefits are substantially higher, most choose worker compensation, officials said.

“Language addressing this issue and other reform measures was put forth in the President’s fiscal year 2011 budget submission to Congress,” Labor Department officials said in the statement.

When federal employees are judged unable to return to work, they receive ongoing wage-loss payments every 28 days and are put on the so called “periodic roll,” which includes about 50,000 recipients across the government, according to the Labor Department.

“Currently, of that population, there are approximately 7,200 claimants who have been judged to have no potential to return to work and who are over the age of 65,” Labor Department officials said in the statement.