Me, Myself, and the Voices in My Head

A place to ramble and maybe make some sense about a thing or two.

Archive for the tag “government”

We’ll see what happens now….

Today I got a call from an EEO/ERO person regarding my previous “quest” to find out why I’d not been reappointed to my employment position.  She asked a lot of questions; I gave a lot of answers; I forwarded a LOT of emails; and she said she’d be making some phone calls and would get back in touch with me.

I have no idea if it’s really going to make a difference or not.  This has been such a stupid thing that I almost don’t care which way it turns out.  But, note that I said “almost” in that last sentence.  I’m still very proud of the work I did with that agency and believe that I still have/had many years left to help others.

If nothing else, it gives me one more step towards closure.  Who knows what will happen?

Just my typical Type-A/OCD self — have to see it through all the way to the end regardless of the outcome.

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I can see why the USPS is in the crapper….

Everyone’s complaining that the United States Postal Service (USPS) is going to be closing post offices and processing centers and probably raising the prices on stamps a zillion more times before the end of the year.  There’s a very, very good reason why, but first let me start with my story of the day.

I like to sell items from my website.  I also like to sell items on eBay.  Many times I have items that need to be shipped overseas.  So, I use the USPS to ship overseas because it is cheaper than UPS, FedEx, or any of the other commercial carriers.  Today I had a World War II Brazilian officer’s belt buckle that had been sold, ironically enough, to a gentleman in Brazil.  I had listed that the weight of the item was about 1 pound because it’s small, brass, and isn’t hard to put into a padded envelope or a small box.  Today when I attempted to ship it, I weighed the buckle and it was actually 2.9 pounds.  That’s fine — not a lot of difference since I’m going to be sending it Priority Flat-Rate International where items up to 4 pounds can be shipped for one fee.  However, what they failed to tell me was that I also needed to weigh the box with it.  If it’s a flat-rate box and it says I can ship up to 4 pounds, why are they also charging for the “free” box?  What’s the point of me using their “flat-rate” service if I’ll end up paying the same amount as if I used my own box?

It’s things like this that explain why the USPS is really in the crapper.  Back when UPS, FedEx, DHL, and the countless other commercial shipping companies that have come-and-gone started vying for our business, they promised overnight or next-day or 3-day shipping and that’s exactly what you got.  The USPS’ attitude was that “it will get there when it gets there” because it’s run by the government with overpaid government employees.  I’m not talking about your standard letter carriers who are actually out in the heat, ice, rain, and snow actually delivering your mail — especially those like my letter carrier who still has to do it on-foot and not in the cute little air-conditioned truck.  When the Postmaster General of the United States makes a 6-figure salary and never actually handles a piece of mail, something’s wrong.  And it’s the lackadaisical attitude of the “perpetual government employment” and specialized benefits that have the higher-ups not really caring if people complain about the service they receive.  It used to be a one-horse show back in the old days.  Them days, partner, are over.

With all of the shipping choices people have now it’s no wonder that the commercial shippers are driving the USPS out of business.  They’re in it for the profit and if the customer isn’t happy, they’ll tell their friends who will tell their friends and pretty soon your company has no one using it.  I’ve seen quite a few come-and-go over the years.  The ones with staying power offer the services you want at a reasonable price and guarantee that you’ll get it.  The USPS always has a “window of opportunity” of when something might arrive.  Rarely do I ever see a confirmed date with the Post Office.

The USPS constantly is trying to remind everyone that they’re self-funded and not assisted by the Federal Government and that only your use of the Post Office can keep it going.  Guess what?  That’s the same thing you’ll hear from a privately owned business!  Gee whiz, who’d have thought that if you gave good service, didn’t overspend on benefits and retirement (something that occasionally is done in commercial companies as well), and tried to stick to your budget that you could be successful?  But, the Federal Government doesn’t require that the USPS make a profit; it just has to break-even.  And then they’re also supported by taxpayers through the “Postal Service Fund” but they don’t like to talk about it because they usually come up with a profit at the end of the day when it’s all is said and done.

And they wonder why people prefer email and commercial shipping?

Still banging my head against the wall

I was hopeful a few days ago when I received a response from one of my elected officials regarding my concerns about why I wasn’t reappointed to my old job.  They sent me a nice email:

April 18, 2012

Dear [Me],

I have sent the enclosed correspondence about your situation to [Governmental Agency Acronym].  The enclosed copy is for your files.

If you have any new, relevant information, please send it to:

Name and address of possibly underpaid staff member
Office of Desperate to be Re-elected Official
Mailing Address to “Local” Office

Or

Fax number that no one uses anymore because of e-mail and the Internet

Please be assured that we are continuing to work on this matter and will contact you as soon as we receive a response.  If you have received this message by email, it is not possible to reply by email.  Please contact my office by phone, fax, mail or online via webform on our website at webaddress.PLEASE-vote-for-me.gov.

Again, thank you for contacting me.  Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance to you on this or any other issue.

Sincerely

Quite odd that if they can send me an email that I can’t send another in return.  I thought that was how email worked.  All these years using the Internet and somehow I missed that.

Anyway, I opened the “enclosed correspondence” to see what it had.  Here’s what I found:

Dear Sir or Madam,

The purpose of this correspondence is to inquire about non-reappointment of [Me, but with my name in all capital letters].

[Me] contacted [Desperate to be Re-Elected Official] out of concern for this case. Her current mailing address is [none of your business].

Her email address is [also none of your business].

Her date of birth is [REALLY none of your business]. I have attached a signed Privacy Act Release Form for this case. (NOTE: The Privacy Act Release Form had all that info on it, so why waste time in a “letter” repeating it?)

According to [Me], she was recently not reappointed to her [old job title] position after almost 8 years of work without personnel or performance issues.  As she has not received an answer from [Governmental Agency Acronym] regarding the specific reason, she believes that it is due to the fact that she has obtained a certified service dog to assist her.  I have attached the email she forwarded to our office where she quotes the letter she received from [Governmental Agency Acronym], as well as her signed Privacy Release form. (NOTE: Didn’t they already say they’d attached this?  Who writes these things??)

I respectfully request that your office give each and every due consideration under the law to the request of the constituent. Please update me by email about the status of this application or the reason for this denial so that I can inform the constituent.

Best regards,

Name of possibly underpaid staff member

So, the letter was off and now all I had to do was sit-back and wait for an answer.  My attempts at getting a straight answer from supervisors (and, I thought, friends) didn’t work.  My attempts at going through the Equal Rights and Equal Employment Offices had met with little fanfare and, as of this date, still no response.  Now I was going to get somewhere!

Today, an email arrived from the political official’s address.  Inside I found:

April 20, 2012

Dear [Me],

I have received the enclosed correspondence from [Governmental Agency Acronym].  The enclosed copy is for your files.

Please feel free to contact me in the future if I can assist you with any other matters of federal concern.  If you are receiving this message by email, please note that it is not possible to reply by email.  Instead, please contact my office by phone, fax, mail or online via webform at http://www.I’m-getting-very-desperate-to-be-reelected.Give-me-some-money.gov.

Again, thank you for contacting me.  Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance to you on this or any other issue.

Sincerely

Okay, a stock response with a quick flip of the ol’ web address where donations are happily received.  But, it had only been 2 days!  I knew something was fishy.  The government never works that fast.  Not for regular taxpayers like us, anyway.

So I opened the attached “response” and here’s what I saw:

Good Morning [Possibly Underpaid Staff Member],

Thank you for your recent inquiry about [Me].  She is concerned about not being reappointed as a [old job title and acronym for it].  On behalf of the [Actual Name of Governmental Agency and Acronym], the following is what I can share at this time.

March 24, 2012, marked the end of the current appointment period for all [old job acronym].  We were asked to evaluate our current work force needs based on [Governmental Agency Acronym]’s mission. This required making some difficult decisions.  Clearly we had people who had contributed to our mission for a long time and were good employees.  However, our current and projected staffing needs meant we needed to create a more nimble organization, which required making some very hard choices.  At this time, it was determined per the Stafford Act and your Conditions of Employment, to allow [Me]’s appointment to expire.  {Me] is free to apply for an appointment within another Cadre.

Once the new [New Job Title] program (what the [old job acronym] program used to be called) is accepting applications, the non-appointed [old job acronym] (your constituent in this case) could apply.  The details of this are still being worked out, and we will keep you posted.  I hope this helps and let me know if you have any additional questions.

Best regards,

External Affairs Specialist, [Area for which I used to be employed]

Hmmm….something seems familiar.  Why, yes!  That whole second paragraph was nearly identical to what they’d sent me previously (and you can check my prior posts to verify it)!!  They didn’t even change the word “your” before “Conditions of Employment” in order to make it read correctly!  They completely avoided the reason why I was asking for clarification and simply whipped together the same old spiel they’d been given to placate those who weren’t rehired and sent it.  And the Desperate to be Re-Elected Official’s staff didn’t even bother to check that it wasn’t an actual response to my actual question before slapping the Official’s name on the email and sending it to me.

Oh, sure, it looks “better” with them saying that I can apply when the new program opens.  However, those who were reappointed also have to apply and if they’re hired, they don’t lose their accrued sick days and their pay could go up but cannot go down.  Those of us who were not reappointed have to start from scratch, regardless of how much experience we have, and lose all of the sick days we’d saved working over the years.  So, technically, someone who had just been hired prior to the “reappointment” period who was retained could be making twice what I made and have no experience but if I get rehired to my “old job” I’d have to start at the bottom of the salary tree again.  Yeah…that sounds really fair.

I immediately went to the website of Desperate to be Re-Elected Official and left them a nice message that what I got was a whole lot of nothing that I hadn’t already sent copies of to them.  And, no, this person will not be receiving my vote in the election — even though this fiasco had nothing to do with my previous intentions to not vote for them.

Oh well….  I’m still on the hunt for answers.  Yeah, I may be just banging my head against the wall, but it’s better than sitting and wallowing in self-pity or wondering what I did wrong (which was nothing).

Non-reappointment not making sense

So, some of you will remember the other day when I posted that my job had ended because I wasn’t chosen to have my position reappointed for another two years.  In the letter I received, this was the explanation given:

March 24th, 2012 marks the end of the current appointment period.  Per the Stafford Act and the Conditions of Employment, you have not been reappointed.  However, you are free to apply for an appointment within another Cadre.

I wrote to my (now former) supervisors to request an explanation on why I wouldn’t be reappointed, especially since I have almost 8 years with the organization and have never received a negative mark on any performance evaluations.  That was on Saturday (March 24th) and I didn’t hear anything back until today.  Here’s what I got:

March 24th 2012 marked the end of the current appointment period for all DAE’s.  We were asked to evaluate our current work force needs based on (insert Governmental Agency Acronym here)‘s mission. This required making some difficult decisions.  Clearly we had people who had contributed to our mission for a long time and were good employees.  However, our current and projected staffing needs meant we needed a more nimble organization, which required making some very hard choices.  At this time, it was determined per the Stafford Act and your Conditions of Employment, to allow your appointment to expire.  You are free to apply for an appointment within another Cadre.

I asked for the definition of a “more nimble organization” but only received the same paragraph in response.

“More nimble organization” — what the heck does that mean?  It’s not like we’re in the military having to carry packs of equipment on our backs.  Heck, some co-workers I’ve seen have barely lifted a ream of paper to refill a copy machine.  And if they’re talking about age, I’m only 41 and most of my dearest friends who work with this organization (for now at least) are much older than I am.

I also asked if I’m qualified to apply for an appointment within another Cadre and received no answer.  I then found the following information posted regarding the way all of the new changes are coming about:

Q: How will someone become part of the National Disaster Reservist Program?  A: More information on opportunities and the process for obtaining appointments to the NDRP will be forthcoming in the next 60 days.

Q: I understand that there is a hiring freeze of DAEs now, is this true?  A: Yes and no.  Any person who is not currently employed by (insert Governmental Organization Acronym here), current local hires, and those who are seeking employment as a new DAE are being asked to wait until the NDRP is fully functional.  Any Permanent Full-Time, Temporary Full-Time, or CORE employee who is transitioning to become a DAE will have their transition processed so that they do not have a break in service which would impact items such as their health care benefits.

As I read this — and someone please correct me if I’ve got it all wrong — there’s a new program that will be called the NDRP.  You can’t apply for it right now but they might have information on how to obtain an appointment in it within approximately 60 days (this is the government, you know).  And if you were a DAE but you’re not one now because you weren’t reappointed, you can’t apply for a new position in a new Cadre because there’s a hiring freeze.

This doesn’t make sense!  If you can’t reapply for your job or for a new one in a new Cadre, then why tell us we can?

Now, there is a clause in our Conditions of Employment that says they can release us at any time for any reason because we’re temporary intermittent workers.  But I smell something fishy here.  They talk about the type of “ideal” workforce they need, not simply that they have to reduce the number of employees.  And for a number of people, myself included, who might have unavoidable “difficulties” in meeting the “ideal” (I’ll let y’all work that definition out for yourselves), this doesn’t sound right.

Well, that’s all I’m going to say about it for now.  I’m waiting on a call from the low-vision center so I can be evaluated for adaptive technologies to help me continue to be able to work, in this job or any other one I might be able to obtain.  I’ve advised them that the rush to get me in isn’t as much of a priority at the moment since I’m not in a position to be employed soon but they’re still trying to help me speed-up the process.  We’ll see what happens.

Officially (via post) unemployed.

March 24th, 2012 marks the end of the current appointment period.  Per the Stafford Act and the Conditions of Employment, you have not been reappointed.  However, you are free to apply for an appointment within another Cadre.

Not exactly the letter I was expecting to receive today, but there you have it.  I’ve worked with the government since 2004 and as a temporary, intermittent employee, they can choose to reappoint or not at will.  I thought my work was strong.  I have never received a poor performance review.  And I have even had people request for me to be on their team(s) because they know about my work ethic and ability to get the job done.

In one sense, I’m not happy.  I don’t know why the appointment wasn’t renewed and I’m not used to having a job and then not having one without another lined-up waiting in the wings (it’s actually quite embarrassing).  In another sense, it now relieves the stress of what would happen should I be called-out to work in the immediate future before I finish my work with my doctors and therapists regarding my vision issues and how I’ll be able to keep working with them.  And, by not having to travel cross-country I don’t have to worry about trying to get on a plane with Celeste and having issues with other passengers.

True, the job has always been temporary.  It’s kind of morbid, when you think about it, being the only person watching The Weather Channel and rooting for the hurricane so that there would be work so I could pay my bills.  Oh, I’d always temper that with the hopes that no one would be killed or seriously injured.  Just enough damages so I could use my skills helping others and making sure there’s food on the table back home.

I’ve emailed my (now former) supervisors for a personal explanation — just so I’ll know whether or not it’s worth trying to apply with another Cadre.  If they’re saying something awful about me that I don’t know about, it would be foolish to put them down as a reference and apply with others who have or will hear the same things said.  With today being Saturday, I know I probably won’t get a response until Monday, if then (since everyone’s busy).  I hope that they’ll be able to give me the information needed and perhaps suggest other Cadre managers that I should speak with regarding applying to work in their units where my education, experience, and talents would be well-suited.

Am I angry?  No.  Am I happy?  No.  My feelings at the moment are mixed — which is not unusual for someone who’s bi-polar.  It’s weird to think that a lot of my friends will continue their careers without me and we won’t have those wonderful stories to tell together of the good and bad times we shared.  Many of my friends taught me what it was like to work in this field; many of my other friends I helped get started on their way.

If nothing else, I can look back at 8 years of employment with the satisfaction that I did my job.  I did it well.  People were helped because of me.  And even though I didn’t always receive a “thank you” or a “kiss my backside” (depending on the situation), I was there and did the best I could.  And knowing that my best helped others achieve their best, or at least attempt to get back to “normal” after what was possibly the “worst” time in their life, makes a big difference to me.

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