National Reassessment Processes

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(This article appeared in the April-June 2011 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Sue Carney, Director Human Relations Dept.

There are two USPS National Reassessment Processes (NRPs), each with a unique set of guidelines. It’s helpful to understand the differences.

NRP MMI is the original reassessment process. It only targets employees who have reached their maximum medical improvement (MMI). Under this process, employees and their APWU representatives receive two weeks advance notice before an initial “interview” is conducted by the NRP Team, which consists of a USPS representative from Operations, Labor Relations and Health Management Resources (formerly Injury Compensation). When a fourth management representative attends, the union is permitted an additional representative to observe the process.

The interviewer is required to stick to a pre-set script, which permits interactivity and allows for corrections. The interviewer will refer to a 546 Worksheet in an attempt to demonstrate that management made every effort to find medically suitable work. Employees who are told there is no work available are entitled to a second interview, usually in a week. If, after this interview, nothing has changed, the employee is typically paid administrative leave for the remainder of the workweek, referred to OWCP, and escorted out of the building. These employees may also be subjected to the OWCP’s vocational rehabilitation program because their restrictions are considered permanent.

If a job offer is made and the employee refuses it, the Postal Service permits the injured worker to remain in his or her existing job offer until OWCP makes a suitability determination regarding the new offer. Once employees are subjected to this NRP, they generally are not reassessed again unless their medical restrictions change or the suitable work ceases to exist.

NRP Limited Duty — This reassessment process targets employees with “temporary” medical restrictions as well as MMI employees who weren’t reassessed under the original NRP. Under this protocol, “Work Status Meetings” are conducted by a supervisor who has no script to follow. Employees and union representatives receive no prior notice regarding these meetings. Management uses “Priority for Assignment Worksheets” to support their inability to find adequate work. When the USPS determines work isn’t available, second interviews aren’t conducted and administrative leave is not paid. Employees refusing job offers are escorted out of the building to await adjudication by OWCP.

This NRP requires available work to be re-evaluated on a daily basis, which violates federal regulations that require job offers to remain available for at least 90 days to be considered suitable. This routine is apparently bothersome, since it has become fairly common for supervisors to make adjustments to job offers after they have been accepted rather than issue new offers and submit them to OWCP, as required by federal regulations. This practice misleads OWCP and frequently causes other problems for claimants. Therefore, each time there is a change, a new job offer should be issued and sent to OWCP.

Similarities — All affected employees are entitled to union representation upon request, and neither process should proceed until the representative is present. Partially recovered employees will either have their existing job offer renewed; be offered a new job (partial or full day), or told no work is available. Injured employees should declare themselves a “qualified individual with disability.”

The Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) Procedure Manual states that any withdrawal of medically suitable work is treated as a recurrence; therefore, employees whose work hours are reduced or eliminated should file Form CA2-a, and Form CA-7 to request wage-loss compensation.

Employees whose hours have been eliminated or reduced should request Form SF-8 to seek unemployment benefits, which vary by state. These employees may also file an appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board, regardless of their veterans’ preference status.

The USPS has an ongoing obligation to make every effort to find medically-suitable work for all injured workers, even those who are told no work is available.

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