WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oregon's U.S. Senators are demanding "immediate action" from the Trump-appointed chief of the U.S. Postal Service, citing reports of significant delays in the delivery of prescriptions medications for veterans.
Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden joined 29 other senators in a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, urging USPS to correct recent changes that are "needlessly delaying" veterans' access to prescription medications.
“Veterans and the VA should be able to count on USPS for the timely delivery of essential prescription drugs,” the senators wrote. “No veteran should have to wonder when their antidepressant or blood pressure medication may arrive – and the effects can be devastating if doses are missed.”
According to the senators, the VA fills about 80 percent of its prescriptions for veterans by mail, primarily using USPS for delivery. Deliveries generally arrive to about 330,000 veterans per day across the country.
While the VA typically promises that those prescriptions will arrive within 3 to 5 days, Merkley and Wyden said that they have received reports from veterans and VA staff that they are now taking up to several weeks for delivery.
Merkley and Wyden joined several other members of Oregon's Congressional delegation in penning a letter to DeJoy last week, urging him to reverse a decision that would not automatically designate ballots as First Class mail — increasing the cost of elections "for already budget-strapped states" and threatening "to disenfranchise voters."
“Unexpected delays at any point during this window could easily prevent Oregonians’ and Americans’ ballots from counting in the November 3 general election,” the Oregon lawmakers wrote. “USPS’ own General Counsel Thomas Marshall has said the same. Make no mistake: We consider these contrived delays to be blatant election interference.”
Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno addressed the election mail concerns in a statement last week after receiving a letter from USPS warning of potential impacts if ballots aren't sent with plenty of turnaround time or aren't labeled First Class mail.
“Fortunately, Oregon has two decades of experience working with our local contacts at the United States Postal Service and has an excellent partnership with them to ensure ongoing support for our elections," Clarno said. "We will of course continue to work with them and monitor any potential impact to both the mailing out of ballots to voters and the return of ballots."
On Tuesday, in an apparent response to the growing pressure to preserve USPS' ability to process and deliver election mail, DeJoy issued a statement promising to suspend changes at the agency until after the election.
"I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability," DeJoy said in part. "I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective, and work toward those reforms will commence after the election. In the meantime, there are some longstanding operational initiatives — efforts that predate my arrival at the Postal Service — that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic. To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded."
EDIT: This story has been updated with the information about DeJoy's August 18 statement.