Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) sent a letter to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Office of the Inspector General requesting that Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb investigate the USPS Free Matter for the Blind or Other Physically Handicapped Persons program. The Senators’ request follows testimony provided by a Marylander last year to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, chaired by Senator Van Hollen, in which the Senator’s constituent described mail delays with materials she was supposed to receive from this program. The Senators’ letter notes that the National Federation of the Blind reports these delays are widespread and are causing significant hardship for members of the blind and physically handicapped communities. Senator Van Hollen is the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government; Senator Hyde-Smith is the Ranking Member of the Committee; Senator Peters is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; and Senator Portman is the Ranking Member of the Committee – all of which have jurisdiction over USPS services.
The Senators begin, “We are writing to request that you conduct a review of USPS performance and operations with regard to Free Matter for the Blind or Other Physically Handicapped Persons. This program enables mail to be sent without charge if it is for the use of people who cannot read conventional print due to a disability. While the Postal Service is generally funded by revenues collected from postal customers, Congress appropriates a limited amount of funding to the Postal Service Fund to support certain programs, including free mail for the blind.”
“At a hearing of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee on July 13, 2021, Ms. Rania Dima testified about delays she experienced with free mail for the blind that were significantly worse than what she experienced for other mail, even though USPS is supposed to process free mail for the blind like First-Class Mail. These delays impeded Ms. Dima’s process of relearning to read after she lost her sight, including to read her own testimony at the hearing. According to the National Federation of the Blind, these delays are a widespread problem that, ‘not only has a detrimental effect on the lives of blind and print-disabled Americans, but is also creating a loss of taxpayer dollars since digital players, Braille displays, and other valuable equipment are stuck in the post office, never reaching the people who need it,’” they continue.
“For those reasons, we ask that you review the procedures used by USPS to accept, process, and deliver Free Matter for the Blind or Other Physically Handicapped Persons, and provide recommendations to fix any problems identified by that review,” the Senators close.
The full text of the letter is available here and below.