Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

USA govt deliberately delayed compensation – waiting for sick nuclear workers to die

Longtime critics of the program’s administration point to numerous examples not only of claimants dying after years of waiting for their compensation but of spouses who refiled for survivorship claims dying while waiting for their compensation awards.

Labor Department Whistleblower: Agency Officials Intentionally Denied or Delayed Pay-Outs to Nuclear Workers in Hopes They Would Die Government attorney who raised red flags said Perez, other Obama officials ignored his complaints about hostility toward nuclear-worker claims, Washington Free Beacon  Susan Crabtree, 21 July 17,

A senior attorney at the Labor Department is accusing agency officials of writing and manipulating regulations to intentionally delay and deny congressionally mandated compensation to nuclear-weapons workers who suffered from sicknesses—and in some cases died—as a result of their work building the nation’s Cold War nuclear arsenal.

The attorney, Stephen Silbiger, says Labor Department leadership under former Labor Secretary Tom Perez ignored years of his complaints about the “open hostility” he said some officials exhibited toward claimants, many of whom are too poor and sick to fight the agency’s denials and red tape in federal court.

When Congress passed the law creating the compensation program in 2000, a bipartisan group of lawmakers promised these nuclear workers a claimant-friendly path to compensating them or their families for illnesses related to the country’s nuclear build-up and their exposure to toxins at bombing-making facilities.

Under the law, the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA), qualified workers or their survivors who were diagnosed with certain types of cancer or other diseases from exposure to toxic substances at covered facilities are entitled to between tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation to help pay medical bills and loss of wages due to their illnesses, with a cap of $400,000.

However, Silbiger and other critics say government officials often purposely thwarted workers’ attempts to seek the compensation by writing regulations that made qualification much more stringent than Congress intended, failing to disclose all the application rules, changing eligibility rules midstream, and delaying compensation for years until the sick workers died.

“There’s explicit hostility toward claimants, and this has become a game for bureaucrats to see how clever they can be in manipulating the statute and the regs to deny benefits to indigent claimants,” Silbiger told the Washington Free Beacon in his first public complaint about the program’s administrators.

Silbiger says the problems with the compensation program parallel some of those at the heart of decades of Veterans Affairs Department corruption and abuse.

“The problem in the VA is that nobody would confront these people [poorly administrating the VA medical service]—it’s very similar,” he said. “Nobody really cares about the program—these people have no real constituency. They’re rural, they’re elderly, they have no political clout, so they’re ignored.”

Silbiger, an attorney in the Labor Department’s Solicitor’s Office, which is charged with meeting the agency’s legal service demands, says that President Donald Trump and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta now have a chance to fix the problems.

Two Labor Department spokesman did not respond to repeated emails seeking answers to a list of Free Beacon questions about the program, including whether there is a current claimant backlog, exactly how many claimants have received compensation versus how many have filed for it, and why top officials never took action in response to Silbiger’s complaints.

The Democratic National Committee, which Perez now chairs, also did not respond to a request for comment after acknowledging receipt of the questions……….

Longtime critics of the program’s administration point to numerous examples not only of claimants dying after years of waiting for their compensation but of spouses who refiled for survivorship claims dying while waiting for their compensation awards.

Some of Silbiger’s complaints echo recent allegations from the Alliance of Nuclear Workers Advocacy Groups (ANWAG), although the two parties said they do not know each other and have not conferred on the topic or anything else.

In a letter to the Labor Department Inspector General Scott Dahl dated July 12, ANWAG called for an immediate and full investigation into the administrators’ handling of the claims “to determine if unethical or illegal regulatory procedures occurred which may have resulted in unjustified denial of claims.”………

ANWAG, however, remains deeply concerned about other recent eligibility rules changes, they say make it more difficult to qualify for compensation. In its July 12 letter to the Labor Department’s inspector general, ANWAG argued that that changes to the rules EEOIC program administrators made earlier this year are illegal because they were never formally adopted through the rulemaking process and were used to deny claims months and even years before officially proposed.

“We do not take this step lightly,” ANWAG stated in its letter, noting that it represents more than 100 advocates across the country helping sick nuclear workers and their survivors receive compensation Congress promised them.

“We believe government employees responsible for implementing EEOICPA have abused their power, ignored the laws of the land [and] failed to comply with executive orders requiring that agencies operate in a transparent manner,” ANWAG wrote, noting that the Labor Department received nearly 500 comments during the rulemaking promise with many commenters voicing their objection to the proposed changes, including those dealing with changes to eligibility for wage-loss compensation.

The new rules require that a worker must identify the “trigger month” in which he first became disabled and that the worker must be employed during that “trigger month” to receive any wage-loss compensation.

ANWAG argued that the new rule did not take into account that the symptoms of the illness could have begun long before a worker left their position and long before reaching a definitive doctor diagnosis of their illness.

“Since DOL regulations accepts [sic] that a worker was injured the last day he or she worked at a facility, it seems logical that DOL would only need to review the medical records they relied upon to accept a disease and compare those records (such as date of diagnosis or documentation of symptoms consistent with the disease before a formal diagnosis was rendered) to the Social Security Administration’s quarterly wages to determine when the worker first lost wages due to [a] covered disease,” the organization wrote.

To make matters worse, the Labor Department revised the rule for wage-loss claims to reflect this more stringent standard in July 2015, four months before they issued proposed rules to do so, the group said. It cited a case in which EEOICP administrators used the same language about the new “trigger month” requirement.

ANWAG also cited a case of the EEOICP officials using this “unauthorized wording” to deny a wage-loss claim seven years ago, in February 12, 2009.

The group also referred to the Lucero decision to back up their argument that the Labor Department is narrowly and illegally interpreting the law Congress passed to compensate nuclear workers for their illnesses in a timely and even-handed way.

“It is ANWAG’s position that DEEOIC has, at least in the changes made for wage-loss claims, overstepped their authority by restricting the ability to claim loss of wages to a very narrow time period,” Barrie wrote.

“Congress understood that many workers suffered from occupational disease which went often not correctly diagnosed for months after the symptoms appeared,” she argued.

“The statute clearly lays out the manner for which DEEOIC is to figure out amount of wage loss. It does not give DEEOIC the authority to limit wage loss to only workers who were employed during the same month they were diagnosed with a covered condition.” http://freebeacon.com/issues/labor-department-whistleblower-agency-officials-intentionally-denied-or-delayed-pay-outs-to-nuclear-workers-in-hopes-they-would-die/

Advertisements

July 28, 2017 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. In 1962 I served at a test site called Johnston Island along with energy
    workers, I worked for the DOD and was denied and excluded under the
    rules o the EEOICPA ACT. I got cancer of the bladder. I asked President
    Trump to amend the ACT using his Executive Authority which he has not
    done. We will die waiting for justice denied.

    Comment by TERRY R SCHEIDT | July 31, 2017 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: