VOICES: Postal service vital for veterans and voters now more than ever

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, talks with 20-plus year Vinylmax Windows employee James Miller as he tours the Hamilton plant Monday, August 31, 2020. Vinylmax is one of the local business who received a payroll protection program loan to keep their employees on payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Note from Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson: Below are excerpts from an opinion piece written by Sen. Rob Portman that first appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The men and women of the United States Postal Service have the unique task of connecting all of us, no matter where we live, with our friends, families, businesses and government. We thank them for their commitment to that mission. Like many Americans, however, I am concerned about mail that is not being delivered in a timely manner, leading to costly and sometimes harmful delays for Ohioans.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Of particular concern to me is the well-being of our Ohio veterans, who have given so much in defense of our country. The Department of Veterans Affairs relies on the Postal Service to deliver roughly 90 percent of all VA Mail Order prescriptions, but I’ve heard troubling reports recently from Ohio veterans who have experienced delays over the last month in receiving refills. Prescriptions that usually take three to five days to be delivered have been averaging nearly two weeks for delivery now, and our veterans have had to bear the costs.

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These delays harm our veterans not only by denying them access to vital medication, but also by burdening the VA with unexpected costs, as it is forced to instead rely on private carriers to send out vital shipments on short notice. A burden on the VA then becomes a burden on our veterans’ access to care and resources. This cannot be allowed to continue.

I also remain concerned about ensuring that all Ohioans have the opportunity to successfully cast absentee votes by mail in this year’s election due to health concerns regarding the coronavirus. As someone who has voted absentee regularly, I am committed to preserving this option for Americans to ensure that as many eligible voters have their voices heard this fall. In fact, earlier this month, I led a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy urging him to work with the state of Ohio to ensure election-related materials are delivered before the November election.

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Recently, Postmaster General DeJoy appeared before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and I pushed him to provide answers for these delays and to guarantee that absentee voting like we have in Ohio would work for voters.

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I was disappointed, however, that the postmaster general did not have an adequate explanation for why our veterans are going without their prescription refills. I pushed him to resolve this unacceptable status quo of delayed medication shipments to our veterans, and I will continue to use my position as a member of the U.S. Senate to demand that our postal service lives up to our expectations.

At the same time, I believe Congress must ensure that the postal service has adequate resources to handle the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. To that end, I recently announced that I will cosponsor the bipartisan Postal Service Emergency Act, which provides the postal service with up to $25 billion in targeted COVID-19 relief in addition to the $10 billion in borrowing authority already provided in the CARES Act enacted this spring.

I am committed to making sure the postal service continues to make its deliveries on time and ensure that Americans’ voices are heard at the ballot box this fall.

Note from Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson: The above are excerpts from an opinion piece written by Sen. Rob Portman that first appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

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