Like many Postal Service advocates, Morrisey criticized the "huge pre-funding obligations from the 2006 law, which require the Postal Service to put aside $5.5 billion each year, for the next 10 years, to fund retiree health benefits. That would have been hard under any economic circumstances, but particularly difficult under the Great Recession.
"That is so far out of scope compared to what is required of any other federal agency," Morrisey said.
Tom Hunter, associate state director of AARP West Virginia, said his group is working hard to preserve the USPS.
"U.S. Postal Service letter carriers may be the only contacts for many elderly, disabled or infirm people across the country. Their letter carrier may be the one person they see every day," Hunter said. "AARP understands the need to make the Postal Service more viable in the Internet age. But our members and older Americans depend on the reliable and timely delivery of their mail."
Carrier Alert, a nationwide volunteer program run by the National Association of Letter Carriers, also plays a positive role looking out for people living in isolated homes and communities, Hunter said.
"Postal Service letter carriers work closely with local social service agencies, using the six-day-a-week presence they have to watch out for older and disabled people," Hunter said.
Catalog and magazine publishers also continue to rely on the Postal Service.
John R. MacArthur, president and publisher of Harper's Magazine, said, "Not having the U.S. Postal Service would be catastrophic. It would kill the industry. And if you couldn't mail magazines out, the most fanatical Internet nuts could take over.
"Everything looks the same on the screen. One website that is spouting nonsense can look as authoritative as The New York Times or The Charleston Gazette," MacArthur said.
"Magazines would cease to exist. Life without the Postal Service would not only be culturally and financially disastrous. It would also be duller."
But concentrating on the people who use the USPS and rely on it to deliver their mail ignores the more than half a million people who work there.
Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., has been one of the major advocates for the USPS, expressing special concerns to keep post offices operating in rural areas like Southern West Virginia.
To improve the Postal Service's finances, Rahall has co-sponsored legislation to eliminate the "onerous funding requirements" to the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund created in 2006.
"West Virginians know better than most that our post offices are neighborhood gatherings spots and can be the heart of communities, giving a small town its own distinctive identity," Rahall told the Sunday Gazette-Mail.
The Postal Service also plays a central role serving "our residents living in remote areas, with limited access to the Internet, many of whom are seniors who, for medical or other reasons, are unable to leave their homes and depend upon reliable and effective mail delivery services," Rahall said.
He and others believe the Postal Service's largest single financial problem was created in 2006, when Congress passed legislation requiring it to set aside tens of billions of dollars for retirement benefits that will not be collected for years. No other federal agency is required to prefund future health benefits for its retired workers.
Citing information provided by the Postal Regulatory Commission and the Postal Service Inspector General, Rahall argues the 2006 mandate overestimates future inflation rates for health care and the future size of the postal workforce.
Rahall wants to pass legislation to reduce or eliminate the 2006 mandate, which would save the Postal Service billions of dollars. He also supports returning previous Postal Service overpayments in pension contributions to help cover costs of future health retirement benefits.Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgqzette.com or 304-348-5164.