U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill and Heidi Heitkamp want Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan to take immediate action to improve U.S. Postal Service operations.
In a two-page letter sent to Brennan Monday, they cited an Aug. 10 Postal Service Inspector General's audit report finding that, "when extrapolated nationwide the number of delayed mail pieces was staggering — approximately 2 billion pieces over a one-year span."
Both senators are Democrats — McCaskill from Missouri and Heitkamp from North Dakota — and both are members of the Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
In a news release announcing the letter, McCaskill said: "For too many Missourians, delayed mail could mean missing a dose of a medication or losing out on a contract because a small business couldn't get shipments on time.
"Falsely marking mail as delivered when it hasn't been is unacceptable, and USPS needs to take action now to improve their customer service in Missouri and across the country."
In their letter, McCaskill and Heitkamp told Brennan: "These delays cost customers and businesses valuable time and put an estimated $85.1 million of Postal Service revenue at risk — at a time when the Postal Service is suffering severe financial difficulties due to declines in mail volume, even after a decrease in the price of its products."
The letter said the inspector general found that, "because of a lack of management training and oversight, mail pieces are being processed after the established cut-off time and delayed mail is going unrecorded, thereby causing daily mail condition reports to be extremely inaccurate."
In Missouri, for example, "we have received numerous photographic examples of mail sitting in bins waiting to be delivered that have already been recorded as delivered in the Postal Service's system," the letter said.
The inaccurate reports also could be affecting USPS management's "critical decisions on staffing, mail processing equipment use and the transportation of mail," McCaskill and Heitkamp told the postmaster general, as well as affecting "system-wide decisions" such as which processing and distribution centers — like the one in Columbia — should be closed.
Those closings have "significantly affected timely delivery to the rural customers in our state," the senators wrote.
The senators' letter reminded Brennan: "The mail continues to be a vital lifeline in rural American and the dependence on this service as a way to deliver goods as well as connect individuals, communities, and businesses demands that it be a reliable and accurate mode of delivery."