Horrible treatment. USPS turns its back on employee caring for Disabled Daughter
File this one under when huge companies go bad.
Full disclosure up front.
Issues affecting disabled people are near and dear to my heart. They are very important to me. My son is learning disabled mostly because of seizures and Epilepsy, but he is making his way through community college. My brother in law, Kenneth Stevens, a young man with a heart of gold, woke up one day at the age of 13 and could not get out of bed. Kenneth would never walk again, and several years later, part of his leg had to be amputated below the knee. Kenneth spent the rest of his life paralyzed and in a wheelchair. His condition, known as an AV malformation, resulted from veins that did not function properly, claimed his life shortly before his 30th birthday. I prayed he wouldn’t die while I was on a business trip to Japan. When I arrived back home that night up at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, Kenneth was on a respirator in intensive care and tubes were everywhere connected to his body, but I will always remember that somehow Kenneth kept his end of the deal.
I have learned firsthand that Disabled people work harder than most of us, and never give up. So it was with great shock that I picked up the NY Daily News Sunday, (on father’s day) and learned the story of Westchester mailman George Ulrich and his daughter Victoria, 16, who suffers from Treacher Collins syndrome. All George wants is his early shift back at work to care for his daughter in the afternoon. The rare genetic disorder left Victoria with a hole in her trachea and the mental capacity of a child half her age. And she has no ears.
Ulrich who reported to work at the same time for 25 years (5:30 AM in Scarsdale) has filed a federal complaint to get his old shift back. So of course you ask why is the 5:30 AM start time so important to Ulrich?
Most letter carriers in Westchester start around 7:30 a.m., because computers generally sort the early morning mail, said George Flood, a USPS spokesman. There was also a 20% drop in national mail volume last year, a trend mirrored in Westchester.
Ulrich used to come in at 5:30 a.m. to sort letters and then complete a 208-stop delivery route by lunchtime. That allowed him to be home when Victoria got off the school bus at 2:30 p.m.
In February, he was told to fill the 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. slot. Now he skips lunch and leaves work at 1:30 p.m. He doesn't get paid for his last two hours, knocking his weekly pay from $600 to $450.
My daughter needs me," Ulrich said. "She needs her daddy. I need to fight for my daughter."
As the Daily News pointed out, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects disabled workers from discrimination. The USPS website says it will give "reasonable accommodation" to a worker "responsible or caring for a person with a disability."
"They claim they don't have to accommodate my child's disability," Ulrich said.
"I owe Con Ed $7,000 because of Victoria's medical equipment," Ulrich said. "She has a humidifier, a heart monitor, a feeding pump, and a suction machine to clear out the 2-inch tube in her throat that helps her breathe."
The US Postal Service wouldn't talk about the case.
Ulrich's insurance, provided by USPS, covers about 60% of Victoria's care. Medical bills have ballooned to $800,000 since birth. Victoria's mom Alison Ulrich , 44, spends most of her $30,000 salary on her daughter. The mom sets up magazine and greeting card displays 12 hours a day.
Victoria knows nothing about her dad's battle. She's too busy with trips to the mall and life skill classes at a school for severely disabled kids. She is learning sign language and can say just a few words, including mommy and daddy.
Most of the time, she hangs with her dad in her pink bedroom decorated with Disney princesses, Dora the Explorer, and her new obsession -Justin Beiber. Victoria and her dad watch the Food Network, read picture books, and piece puzzles together until her 8 p.m. bedtime.
Then Ulrich turns on the humidifier, cleans out her throat tube with saltwater, and gives her a kiss goodnight - a daily routine he refuses to stop.
"I just want to do my work, go home and do what I have to do," Ulrich said. "I won't give up. Family has to come before your job."
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