Richmond mail issues play central part in Senate hearing on USPS troubles

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Posted at 6:42 PM, Apr 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-17 19:07:05-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- After a wreck last October, Dr. DeVita Graves said her insurance company decided to total her vehicle.

But Graves says she was proud of her Chevy Suburban and paid to get it rebuilt.

Little did she know that decision would entangle her in Richmond's ongoing mail delivery issues.

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Graves said the process required a DMV examination to get the vehicle off the salvage list, and it went smoothly with the inspector signing off.

Graves said the DMV mailed her a new title back in February.

“The 17th, I believe, or the 18th, something like that. I still have not received the title. It’s, I guess, lost in the mail," Graves said.

She is now part of the growing list of CBS 6 viewers who have dealt with delayed or missing mail, all originating from the Richmond USPS processing facility in Sandston since late 2023.

“I know $15 may seem small for someone, but it’s my $15. I paid for it - it want it," Graves said, referring to how much it would cost to get a new title. "It’s no different than if you order something online and it never comes to you.”

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Dr. DeVita Graves

The issues with Richmond USPS operations were central to a hearing Tuesday of the U.S. Senate Postal Service Oversight Committee.

The Sandston facility was the first in the country to undergo a massive overhaul of intake and delivery operations, centralizing that process a hub facility.

The Postal Service Inspector General found after the Sandston facility changes were rolled out, service for Richmond-region customers saw a sharp decline in delivery.

"Local management said they did not fully understand the new mail flow in the facility and were not solicited for input," said Tammy Hall, with Inspector General Office. Hall said the Richmond roll-out failed to adequately plan for transportation need and train workers at the facility.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy took pointed questions from committee members during the two hour-plus long hearing.

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Louis DeJoy

DeJoy said he expects the adjustments made at the Richmond facility will stabilize delivery times soon.

"I expect these operations to be stabilized by the summer," DeJoy said.

While DeJoy apologized for the issues facing hundreds — or more — customers in Richmond and beyond, DeJoy remained steadfast that the overhaul of the USPS operation to a system that looks more like Amazon or Fedex is necessary.

“It is plant by plant, person by person, driver by driver, that has to take on a new way working, a new way of thinking. It’s easy to criticize when you show up at the crime scene and see the damage," DeJoy said. "The path there is long and people are working very hard to change hearts and minds in terms of how we perform.”

Senators from all regions of the country have repeatedly criticized USPS leadership for lacking transparency and seemingly ignoring the chorus of complaints in Richmond and other parts of the country.

While the uncertainty of her vehicle title is concerning enough, Graves said mail problems aren't just on paper, it's real life stuff.

"My pharmacy insurance telling me that I had to get one of my medications through home delivery, and that kind of scared me," Graves said. "A title is an important piece of documentation. I’m not sure if it is to them, but to me it is.”

While no Virginia lawmakers were on the committee hosting Tuesday's hearing, Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan released a joint statement to CBS 6:

“The ongoing mail delivery issues in Richmond are not an isolated incident. We are seeing similar issues nationwide, and the USPS Inspector General has made it clear additional steps need to be taken to resolve them. Yesterday’s hearing is another important step in those efforts, as we work to gather additional information and hold the Postal Service accountable. We will continue to conduct the necessary oversight and work with our partners at the local, state, and federal levels to ensure Virginians receive the timely reliable mail delivery services they deserve.”

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