Federal Diary: Readers sound off on postal service, hiring, whistle-blowers

September 1, 2011

The Federal Diary gets many reader comments, some of them fit to print. Occasionally, we give readers a chance to speak out by printing a few of their remarks, including those posted online. The comments may have been edited for clarity and length.

Recent columns on U.S. Postal Service proposals to deal with its financial condition generated a great deal of reaction:

Mail volume has dropped, but it is not a large part of the problem. An economist has already figured it out. Even with Internet technology and the worst management system anyone could possibly devise, USPS still has almost $68 billion in annual revenue. The USPS is being bled dry by federal politics and nothing else. An independent Office of Inspector General audit found the Postal Service “overpaid” into the retirement system an amount estimated at between $60 billion and $80 billion, which the Office of Personnel Management has refused to refund. This is the basic truth.

farmgal50

You don’t know what you’re talking about. Declining mail volume is a large part of the problem. The congressional mandate [USPS is required to prefund retiree health benefits] exasperates the problem of postal finances, but to say that declining mail volume has nothing to do with it is nonsense. Try doing a little research and look at the mail volume for the last several years. Down or up? And what’s the trend, down or up? When your whole business is built upon mail, and people and businesses are using a lot less of it, you think that has no effect on revenue? This is very basic stuff; it doesn’t take an economist to figure it out.

cozmot

Hello, OPM?
The administration points to improvements in the federal hiring process, but it’s still not working for this reader and others. Perhaps the Office of Personnel Management will answer her.

I am writing to find out what is going on with the government. I am a 49-year-old, reinstatement eligible, unemployed woman, and I have been applying for positions on the USAJOBS listing. . . . I have not gotten any callbacks or have even been on the list of considered candidates. I also have several friends who are the same age and have reinstatement eligibility. I want to know what we need to do to be considered for these positions. We were secretaries for the federal government. I have 23 years of service. Even when I apply for the lowest grade available, I am still not being considered for these positions. Could someone let me know what is going on or what do I need to do?

Donna Edmonds, Hagerstown, Md.

Whistleblowers’ travails

This letter responds to a column about a $970,000 settlement to a whistleblower who was demoted after exposing problems with a U.S. government contractor in Iraq.

In your report of the settlement in Bunnatine “Bunny” Greenhouse’s whistleblower case, you omitted what I think is something that most certainly should have been included: the identities of the individuals in the Army Corps of Engineers who, clearly, violated law and regulation in taking reprisal actions. I think it’s a legitimate question to ask if those responsible for actions against Ms. Greenhouse have been subjected to any sort of disciplinary action, demotion or sacking.

I write as one who has had experience as a whistleblower. So the conclusions I come to from my case and other cases of whistleblowers are the following:

1. There is less than a 50/50 chance that a whistleblower will ultimately succeed in getting any satisfaction.

2. With rare exception, the whistleblower will have a protracted period of adverse actions taken against him, will suffer any number of indignities, slights and penalties including, in some cases, suspension and loss of salary.

3. With even rarer exception — very, very rarely — the whistleblower’s career will not, in effect, be derailed. Even if the whistleblower is restored to his former position, he will be considered by most a “troublemaker,” “disloyal” and someone to be avoided.

4. Rarely are those responsible for illegal and unethical actions penalized in any way. They are not considered troublemakers or lacking in loyalty. Except where they have been found to have stolen from the government or taken bribes or something of that nature, they suffer in no ways. They are also not named in the press, no matter how egregiously they have violated civil service regulations and even law.

5. Sadly, inspectors general are generally reluctant to investigate, and when they do they are generally not very helpful.

Obviously, unless there are penalties for mistreating a subordinate or colleague in a government entity, some individuals will see an advantage in doing so.

Stuart J. D. Schwartzstein, Washington

Let us know what you think by sending your comments to federaldiary@washpost.com. Links to articles mentioned in this column can be found at www.washingtonpost.com/
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Follow the Federal Diary on Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP

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