Wayne County, MI
AFL - CIO
Vice President's Report
May / June 2019
You Do NOT Want To Go To “The Clinic!”
Letter Carriers that are injured on the job often will require medical evaluation and/or treatment for their injuries. When this occurs, letter carriers as well as all injured postal and federal employees always have the unfettered right to be medically evaluated and treated by a physician of the employee’s own choosing, NOT one chosen by management. Despite this, for a number of reasons our injured members all too often end up being treated at a USPS Contract “clinic” instead of their own physician or an affiliated medical care facility. This decision can and it often does result in a number of adverse consequences for an injured letter carrier.
The prevalence of these so-called “urgent care” type clinics, which during recent years have seemingly sprouted on every other street corner, is a sad testament to the current sorry state of our profit driven health care system in the United States. These “doctors of convenience” want a piece of the health care pie and they are only too happy to use the Postal Service and other employers as an open ended piggy bank when treating employees with job related injuries. It’s all about the money and only about the money, and not the best interests of the injured employee.
Meanwhile, injured letter carriers are frequently subjected to indifferent and shoddy care, missed or improper medical diagnoses, wholly inadequate medical reports, and annoying billing issues, among other problems. Even straightforward letter carrier injury compensation claims have been derailed by sloppy and half-ass medical documentation
provided by these clinics.
The insidious aspect of this situation is that the Postal Service knows very well that 1) the personal or family primary care physician of most letter carriers is usually not immediately available to evaluate and treat an on-the-job injury, and 2) that many letter carriers, especially younger letter carriers, do not even have a personal or primary care physician. Additionally, not all physicians are willing to accept and work with federal employee workers compensation claims.
Postal Service management takes full advantage of this, frequently directing injured employees to “the clinic” without advising the carrier of their right to treated by a medical care provider of their choice. Management’s failure to advise a letter carrier of their choice of physician when injured is a direct violation of the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) as well the Postal Service’s own regulations. However, as we know all too well, willful violations of our Labor Contract, of USPS Handbooks and Manuals, and of applicable laws are all too often inconsequential to management’s agenda.
Making the System Work for YOU
So how can an injured letter carrier avoid the pitfalls of using “the clinic” for their medical care? As with most things of importance in life, advance planning is the key. Because of prolonged daily exposure to multiple hazards, letter carriers can and do
incur job-related injuries at any time. Thus, it is essential that every letter carrier has a plan ready to implement should an injury occur. Of note, contrary to management’s hypocritical and trite, slogan-ridden blather, letter carrier injuries are NOT “accidents”
and many of them are in fact entirely unavoidable. It CAN happen to you.
If you do have a personal or family primary care physician, he/she is in all likelihood affiliated with a network of hospitals or reputable medical care clinics that are immediately available to evaluate and treat your injury with YOUR best interests in mind.
Talk with them in advance to ensure that they accept federal employee injury compensation claims. If you do not have a personal or family primary care physician, do some networking with friends and family members to obtain recommendations of quality
medical care providers. Again, this should be done BEFORE you sustain a job-related injury.
In summary, our nation’s health care system is at the present time a profit-driven disaster, rigged entirely to line the pockets of insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and large health care conglomerates. Since it is clear in the near term that political cowardice and the corrupting influence of big money lobbying precludes a viable consumer-driven solution that guarantees equal access to quality health care for all, injured letter carriers must learn to play the system as it is. This begins with ensuring that
your injury is evaluated and cared for by medical care providers that are only working in your best interests. In short, you’ve got to have a plan. Make that plan NOW.
-- Joe Golonka