Feb 13, 2013

No Saturday letters? How it might affect seniors

The United States Postal Service has said it will discontinue Saturday letter delivery beginning August 2013, saying it will save it $2 billion annually. That's a chunk of change, but just a small patch on the red ink: USPS lost $16 billion just last year. It's unclear whether the elimination of Saturday service will really happen, as Congress may still have something to say about it. 

As a Florida elder law attorney who works with older people and their families, I am concerned about how five-day delivery may impact on homebound seniors. The mail carrier may be a home-bound senior's sole, or one of the few, points of contact. Also, carriers are uniquely attuned to signs of trouble at the residences they visit: for example, accumulating mail, doors ajar, strange sounds, etc. In some communities, there is even a Carrier Alert program, a formal chain of command and response system when a carrier senses something awry.

Fortunately, it appears that it is only letters, not packages, are on the Saturday chopping block, so seniors need not worry about delays in home delivery of prescription drugs. U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth was so concerned about this issue that she wrote a letter to the postal service underscoring the importance of Saturday package delivery, stating: “Whether it is a home-bound senior that cannot walk or drive to the pharmacy, or a Veteran who lives in a rural area with limited access to the prescription drugs they need, many of these home delivery beneficiaries cannot afford to go without their medications for days.” 

Like rain, sleet and snow, partisan bickering is apparently no match for the Postal Service: Duckworth's letter was signed by her colleagues on both sides of the aisle. That's something we would like delivered more often.

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