Tool time

When Gieti Mojadidi joined the Postal Service four years ago, she signed up for health benefits and didn’t give it another thought.

Last fall, as open season approached, Mojadidi, an organization design consultant at USPS headquarters in Washington, DC, heard that premiums for her plan, CareFirst, were going up.

That prompted her to use the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program plan comparison tool, and what she learned amazed her: By switching to a different plan, BlueCross BlueShield Basic, to cover herself and her family, she would save $1,607.32 in premiums during the following year.

“I gave myself a raise,” Mojadidi said. “I had chosen my initial plan because I was familiar with it, and I never used the comparison tool before. Now I tell everyone to check it out, because it’s easy to see the pros and cons of various plans, and you can benefit financially from it, too.”

Mojadidi is one of approximately 42,000 USPS employees who made changes to their benefits during last year’s open season, federal workers’ once-a-year opportunity to adjust their health coverage or choose a new plan.

On average, these employees are on track to save $2,020 this year — or about $78 each pay period.

USPS wants more employees to evaluate their options during this year’s open season, which is Nov. 11-Dec. 9.

“Health benefits are vitally important to employees’ well-being,” said Chief Human Resources Officer Isaac Cronkhite. “But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan, and paying more doesn’t always mean getting the best coverage for your situation. Taking the time to do your homework will ensure you’re getting the right benefits at the right price.”

The Open Season LiteBlue page has more information, including a link to Checkbook’s Guide to Health Plans, another tool that allows employees to compare available options.

Since changing her benefits last year, Mojadidi has been happier with her deductibles, and she has enjoyed the peace of mind that came with adding dental and vision benefits, as well.

The bottom line?

“More coverage for less money,” she said.

In the green

Nine facilities, teams, programs and individuals will receive Postmaster General Sustainability Excellence Awards for their efforts to help USPS achieve its sustainability goals.

The honorees, announced last week, are:

• eDispose, a collaboration that involves several USPS teams that worked together to develop an online portal that explains how to handle electronic waste

• Erie, PA, Processing and Distribution Center, which increased the amount of scrap metal recycled during the previous fiscal year by more than 19 tons, helping to reduce harmful materials in waste streams and greenhouse gas emissions

• Evansville, IN, Vehicle Maintenance Facility, which embraced recycling, reduced water usage and switched to LED lighting, thereby cutting costs for the Postal Service

• Knoxville, TN, Vehicle Maintenance Facility, which reduced energy usage by replacing old bulbs containing mercury with LED bulbs and new lighting fixtures that helped cut energy usage and environmental waste

• Memphis, TN, Processing Networks Transportation, an office that launched two projects: one initiative that converted five diesel fuel vehicles to compressed natural gas and another program that tested autonomous trucking technology and helped USPS explore new ways to improve safety, reduce emissions and cut costs

• USPS Facilities team, which finalized a project to install 64,500 solar panels on roofs and parking canopies at several Postal Service locations — an initiative that will save millions of dollars in energy costs while cutting nearly 22,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually

• USPS Maintenance team, which detected and repaired more than 1,500 compressed air leaks at 109 sites, saving the Postal Service more than $1.8 million and reducing the need for larger, more expensive air compressor systems

• Washington, DC, Network Distribution Center, which will save $18.8 million during the next five years by using hydrogen fuel cell technology instead of lead acid batteries previously used in a fleet of 92 powered industrial vehicles

• Denver Facilities Environmental Specialist Anne Wolf, who was recognized for her work on a range of stormwater retention and treatment, hazardous materials spills and heating oil tank replacement issues

The Sustainability Blue page has more information about each honoree.

Avoiding misuse

The Postal Service wants employees to follow its rules on using USPS-issued computers and mobile devices, including laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Here’s what you should know:

• Postal equipment should be used for postal business. However, the organization’s policy allows for limited personal use of USPS equipment, as well as office equipment and supplies.

• For example, under the policy, you can use a postal printer to print a two-page dinner recipe. You can also use your USPS computer to check the latest sports scores during your lunch break.

• Some activities are prohibited whether you’re on duty or not. These include creating, viewing, sending or receiving sexually explicit content; gambling; working for an outside employer; completing work for an outside business; and engaging in partisan political activity.

Management Instruction EL-660-2009-10, Limited Personal Use of Government Office Equipment and Information Technology, explains the policy in detail.

If you have questions or need guidance, email the Ethics Office at ethics.help@usps.gov.

How’d they do that?

A new Postal Service video shows how this year’s holiday television commercials were filmed.

The video showcases the five employees who appear in the ads, including Jose Godinez, a Redondo Beach, CA, letter carrier who, through the magic of Hollywood, delivers mail to a snow-covered farmhouse.

“We’re in California and it doesn’t rain or snow very often,” Godinez says with a laugh. “I’m usually in shorts and a short-sleeve shirt.

Oscar Padilla, a Los Angeles letter carrier, says his participation in the campaign demonstrates the opportunities available to USPS employees.

“The Postal Service got me a chance to be on TV,” he says. “I mean, I never have had a chance to be in something like this.”

The commercials, titled “Bringing Home the Holidays,” began airing Nov. 4 and are part of a campaign that will also include social media posts and mailers.

Another letter carrier who appears in the ads, Camille Graves of Brookfield, MA, encourages employees to consider auditioning for future campaigns.

“If this opportunity ever comes up, I recommend just taking a chance and doing it,” she says. “I’d love to do it again. I really would.”

News Briefs

Here comes Santa

Open for business. USPS Operation Santa kicked off Nov. 18 and runs through Dec. 20.

The annual program allows employees and customers to aid families in need by “adopting” their letters to Santa Claus and granting their holiday wishes.

A legacy program available only in New York City and Chicago allows individuals to adopt letters in person, while a digital program, available on USPSOperationSanta.com, allows individuals nationwide to read and adopt letters.

There is also an internal program for USPS employees who wish to adopt letters.

Let’s chat. Postal Service employees can participate in a live chat with health insurance experts Friday, Nov. 22, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. EST.

The chat is part of an online virtual benefits fair that is running during this year’s open season benefits enrollment period.

A chat will also be offered Wednesday, Dec. 4, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. EST.

The fair offers information about the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB), Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) and Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP), as well as flexible spending accounts (FSAs).

Long Term Care Partners, the company that manages the FLTCIP, is organizing the fair.

Participation is voluntary and off-the-clock. Employees can register at the FLTCIP site.

The Open Season LiteBlue page has additional information about this year’s enrollment period.

Capital watch. USPS recently mailed Capital Metro Area Update’s latest issue to employees in the area.

The newsletter, which is also available on Blue and LiteBlue, features articles on workplace security, heroic employees, job training and other topics.

Got news? Email your submissions to uspslink@usps.gov.