WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Jon Tester (D-MT), Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, are pressing Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie on reports of veterans who have seen significant delays in receiving their prescription medication through the U.S. Postal Service. Peters has been leading the charge to demand answers on recent operational changes that have negatively affected delivery service for Americans in Michigan and across the country. After receiving misleading information from the Postal Service, Peters launched an investigation into the changes DeJoy ordered that are preventing Americans from receiving critical mail on-time, including prescription drugs, business mail, and mail-in ballots.
“Veterans and the VA should be able to count on USPS for the timely delivery of essential prescription drugs,” the Senators wrote. “No veteran should have to wonder when their antidepressant or blood pressure medication may arrive – and the effects can be devastating if doses are missed.”
“USPS needs to immediately cease operational changes that are causing mail delays so that veterans do not needlessly suffer from illnesses exacerbated by delayed medication deliveries,” the Senators continued. “Those who gave so much to serve this country should be able to count on the nation’s Postal Service to deliver their medications in a timely manner.”
The VA fills about 80 percent of its prescriptions through their Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy (CMOP), which primarily uses the U.S. Postal Service to deliver to veterans’ homes. The VA CMOP fills almost 120 million prescriptions a year, with deliveries arriving daily to about 330,000 veterans across the country. According to the VA website, “prescriptions usually arrive within 3 to 5 days.” Reports from veterans and VA staff have said that recently these medications are now taking weeks to be delivered and causing veterans to miss doses of vital medications. Earlier this week, Peters visited the USPS Metroplex facility in Pontiac, Michigan, met with workers and discussed operations during the pandemic. Following his visit, Peters held a virtual press conference where he highlighted the story of a constituent whose husband was unable to take his medicine after his typically reliable delivery went from taking 3 days to 12 days.
As part of his ongoing investigation into the Postal Service, Peters has been seeking information from the people and small businesses most affected by these delays. Peters also wrote to a dozen Veterans Services Organizations seeking their assistance in providing information about veterans who are struggling to get their prescriptions delivered on time or are experiencing other problems caused by recent mail delays. Those groups include the VFW, American Legion, AMVETS, National Association of County Veterans Service Officers, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America, Union Veterans Council, Michigan VFW, Michigan American Legion, and Michigan Disabled American Veterans.
The text of Peters and Tester’s letter is copied below and available here. A copy of Peters’ letter to the VFW is available here.
August 14, 2020
U.S. Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza West, S.W.
Washington, DC 20260
Dear Postmaster DeJoy,
Millions of veterans rely on timely deliveries from the United States Postal Service (USPS) to receive their prescription medications from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Recent operational changes you ordered at USPS are needlessly delaying veterans’ access to life-saving prescriptions, when the health and lives of Americans are already at high risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
VA fills about 80 percent of veteran prescriptions by mail, due to the high accuracy and lower processing costs of the Department’s mail-order pharmacy service, the Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy (CMOP). The VA CMOP fills almost 120 million prescriptions a year, with deliveries arriving daily to about 330,000 veterans across the country. Veterans and the VA rely on USPS for timely delivery of these prescriptions, since approximately 90 percent of CMOP packages are shipped to veterans by the Postal Service. VA’s mail-order pharmacy service is also extremely popular among veterans, with an “among the best” rating in customer satisfaction according to the J.D. Power U.S. Pharmacy Study.
However, since you directed USPS to institute harmful operational changes that have restricted mail movement and limited carriers’ ability to timely deliver mail, we have received many troubling reports from veterans waiting weeks for their prescriptions to arrive due to delays at USPS. VA’s website states that “prescriptions usually arrive within 3 to 5 days.” Veterans and VA staff have said that as of recently, these medications are often taking weeks to be delivered and causing veterans to miss doses of vital medications. Most troubling is that these delays appear to be entirely avoidable. Veterans and the VA should be able to count on USPS for the timely delivery of essential prescription drugs.
Access to prescription medications is especially integral during the COVID-19 pandemic when routine health care appointments may be delayed or cancelled. No veteran should have to wonder when their antidepressant or blood pressure medication may arrive – and the effects can be devastating if doses are missed. Thousands of veterans, including more than 2,200 veterans who were VA patients, have already died from the novel coronavirus. USPS needs to immediately cease operational changes that are causing mail delays so that veterans do not needlessly suffer from illnesses exacerbated by delayed medication deliveries.
Those who gave so much to serve this country should be able to count on the nation’s Postal Service to deliver their medications in a timely manner. We request that the Postal Service examine the impact of its recent operational and policy changes on veterans’ access to prescription drugs, and work with VA to ensure no veteran suffers from further medication delivery delays.
cc: The Honorable Robert Wilkie