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The ‘3-Day Waiting Period’

(This article by Human Relations Department Director Sue Carney first appeared in the May/June 2007 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine)

Despite a long and hard-fought battle by the APWU, on Dec. 20, 2006, President Bush signed into law the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which included provisions that we vehemently opposed.

One such item is an amendment to Section 8117 of the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA). The amendment, which applies only to USPS employees, establishes a three-day waiting period before Continuation of Pay (COP) will be granted.

Traumatic, Occupational Injuries

COP is paid only for traumatic injuries, i.e. injuries that occur in a single day or work shift. A COP-eligible employee may use annual leave, sick leave, or leave without pay during the three-day period.

If the first three days of disability occur during the employee’s non-scheduled days, being in a non-pay status also goes towards satisfying this new regulation. If an employee’s inability to work extends beyond 14 calendar days, any leave that was used will be restored; if LWOP was used, the employee will be paid.

There has been no change in the USPS policy of paying administrative leave (or leaving the employee in a work status) for time missed due to medical examination or treatment on the day of injury. For more information, see Injury Compensation, Handbook EL 505, Chapter 13.4 [PDF].

The rules relating to occupational injuries — injuries that result from work activity over the course of more than one day — are unchanged. A three-day waiting period remains in effect before wage-loss compensation will be paid by OWCP (Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs).

However, an employee must be in a non-pay status for three calendar days before he or she will be eligible for compensation. No leave may be used during the three-day period, but if an inability to work extends beyond 14 calendar days, compensation will be paid for any wage loss during the waiting period.

The effective date for the new COP policy was Dec. 20, the day the postal reform law was signed. The COP-3 Day Waiting Period language [PDF] establishes how the Postal Service will implement the policy, which has been reviewed by OWCP and found to be in compliance with the amended FECA language.

USPS and OWCP handbooks and manuals are also being brought into compliance with the new language.

‘First Script’ Prescription Drug Card

The USPS has a voluntary prescription-drug card program for employees who suffer workplace injuries or illnesses. Employees who participate in the program submit their drug card and prescriptions to the pharmacy of their choice. The prescriptions are then filled at no cost to the employee.

The program, which is known as “First Script,” has been reviewed by the Department of Labor, which has determined that it does not conflict with or otherwise affect any existing OWCP prescription drug fulfillment rules or processes.

For employees who suffer traumatic injuries, drug cards will be faxed to the postal facility where the accident occurred, then provided to the employees. If a participating employee’s claim is subsequently denied by OWCP, he or she will not be liable for the cost of the prescription.

If an employee suffers an occupational illness, a prescription card will be mailed to the employee once the claim has been accepted by OWCP. Employees who have long-term conditions also will have the option of receiving their prescriptions by mail from a designated provider.

The vendors under contract to the USPS to provide these services are First Script Network Services and PharmaCare (a division of CVS). The Postal Service says that the vendors’ contracts do not permit them to have access to any information regarding the participating employees or their prescriptions.

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