Lifesaving letters

Mail call has always been a morale-boosting military tradition, but it turns out that mail can do more than improve a service member’s disposition — it can also save their life.

Last summer, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) launched the Caring Letters Program, which mails recurring messages to veterans enrolled in VA health care programs who contacted the agency’s crisis line.

Research shows that receiving thoughtful letters can reduce someone’s likelihood of suicide. According to a VA report last year, an average of 17.6 veterans per day died by suicide in 2018.

“It’s a way to reconnect, not only with treatment options, but to remind them that there are folks here that care for them,” said Lisa Kearney, VA’s deputy director for suicide prevention.

In letters written by health professionals and those involved with the program, veterans are reminded of VA resources at their disposal, such as mobile apps and telephone numbers related to their benefits.

After its first five months, the program had mailed 172,000 letters to more than 47,500 veterans.

Some VA employees, like registered nurse and Navy veteran Tim Moran, have taken it upon themselves to bring messages of hope and support to the veterans they serve.

His patients in the VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System were isolated because of COVID-19 safety precautions that prohibited visitors. Moran took to social media to request heartfelt messages.

“We received between 115 to 120 pieces of mail in response to that first Facebook post,” Moran wrote in a VA blog post. “Every veteran received at least three or four letters during the first mail call.”

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Carrier care

A Texas employee’s chat with a customer has resulted in more than $184,000 in new estimated annualized revenue for the Postal Service.

Tracey Quinn, a letter carrier in Carrollton, a city near Dallas, learned that a detergent manufacturer on her route was looking for a cost-saving way to ship its products.

She submitted a lead through Customer Connect, a joint program with the National Association of Letter Carriers that encourages carriers to identify sales opportunities for USPS.

Anthony Sanchez, a Dallas District business development specialist, and Ron Williams, a senior field sales representative, followed up with the company.

As a result, the business decided to switch to the Postal Service for shipping and signed a deal.

Sales generated from Customer Connect leads count toward the USPS Power of One campaign to raise revenue through sales leads from employees.

“For many of our customers, their main interaction with the Postal Service is through their letter carrier,” said Mary Anderson, the organization’s small-business engagement director. “Tracey heard a customer expressing a desire to save money, and she served her customer well by passing along the customer’s needs to the sales team.”

The Postal Service is encouraging as many employees as possible to submit at least one lead through any of its six lead programs by Sept. 30. The Small Business Sales team is tracking program participation rates through its weekly “Drive to 35” downloadable report.

The Small Business and Lead Generation Programs Blue page has more information about Customer Connect and the other employee lead programs: Business Connect, Clerks Care, Mail Handlers, Rural Reach and Submit a Lead.

In remembrance

U.S. flags flying at half-mast

President Joe Biden has ordered U.S. flags flown at half-staff to honor the victims of the April 2 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Flags should be flown at half-staff until Tuesday, April 6, at sunset.

To fly the flag at half-staff, hoist the flag to the peak for an instant and then lower it to the half-staff position. The flag should be raised to the peak again before it’s lowered for the day.

The USPS Administrative Support Manual has additional guidelines on U.S. flag display and maintenance.

In and out

Postal Service employees can participate in an upcoming webinar on a breathing technique that can help reduce stress.

The session, “Diaphragmatic Breathing,” will be held Tuesday, April 6, at noon EDT.

A representative from GEHA, a not-for-profit provider of health plans for federal employees, will conduct the webinar and explain how breathing deeply from the lower abdomen increases lung capacity and the body’s restorative abilities.

Participants must register before the event on the webinar website. After signing up, directions for accessing the webinar will be emailed to each registrant.

Following the webinar, participants will receive an email with a link to an archived recording of the webinar along with the slides.

Participation is voluntary. Nonexempt employees may only participate off the clock or during authorized breaks.

For more information, email the USPS Health and Wellness team.