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2007 Third Annual Report — Preface

The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) was passed by Congress in 2000, and amended in 2004, to compensate American workers who put their health on the line to help fight the Cold War. In the course of doing their jobs, many of these workers were exposed to radiation and other toxic substances and, as a result, developed cancer and other serious diseases. The purpose of this program is to acknowledge the sacrifice of these workers and to compensate them in some small way for their suffering and loss.

As originally enacted in 2000, EEOICPA included Part B (administered by the Department of Labor (DOL)) and Part D (administered by the Department of Energy (DOE)). In October 2004, Congress repealed Part D and enacted Part E of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act, effectively transferring responsibility for administration of contractor employee compensation from the DOE to the DOL. The 2004 amendments also created the Office of the Ombudsman for Part E and directed that it be an independent office, located within the Department of Labor, charged with a three-fold mission:

  • To conduct outreach to claimants and potential claimants to provide information on the benefits available under this part and on the requirements and procedures applicable to the provision of such benefits;
  • To make recommendations to the Secretary of Labor about where to locate resource centers for the acceptance and development of claims;1
  • To submit an Annual Report to Congress by February 15, setting forth the number and types of complaints, grievances and requests for assistance received by the Ombudsman, and an assessment of the most common difficulties encountered by claimants and potential claimants under Part E during the previous year.

See 42 U.S.C. § 7385s-15(e).

In 2007, the Office of the Ombudsman continued to build on its efforts to reach out to Part E claimants and potential claimants. Our primary emphasis focused on responding to the many letters, emails and telephone calls we received, requesting information or assistance, or expressing concerns about various aspects of the Part E compensation program. However, as in previous years, we also hosted and/or attended town hall meetings in locations around the country. These meetings which were very well attended provided us an opportunity to meet claimants and to "put a face" on many of the complaints that we had received. The presence at these meetings of representatives from the resource centers and the Program Office also offered the opportunity to immediately address many complaints and concerns — especially status inquiries and requests to file claims. Moreover, because Denise Brock, the Ombudsman to NIOSH was present at some of these meetings, we were able to offer claimants immediate access to someone who could assist with some of their Part B questions. As a result of the success of these town hall meetings, we will continue to schedule them for the coming year. Overall, with respect to the Office of the Ombudsman, some of the highlights of the preceding year include:

  • Received hundreds of telephone calls, e-mails and letters from claimants and potential claimants.
  • Hosted town hall meetings in Kayenta, Arizona; Shiprock, New Mexico; and Augusta, Georgia.
  • Accepted the invitation of Denise Brock, Ombudsman to NIOSH, to attend town hall meetings that she sponsored in Idaho Falls, Idaho and Calabasas, California, and invited Ms. Brock to join us in Augusta, Georgia. Because many claimants are potentially eligible under both Parts B and E, these joint efforts have been well received. I am happy that Ms. Brock has expressed a willingness to continue this coordination of efforts.
  • Testified before the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee.
  • Developed a database to better record and report the grievances and complaints received by the Office.
  • Provided briefings to various organizations and congressional staff members.
  • Developed facts sheets for distribution to claimants and potential claimants.
  • Met periodically with staff of DEEOIC.

In addition, working with DEEOIC, the Office of the Ombudsman has provided hundreds of claimants with an updated status of their claim and provided guidance to many claimants on the processing of their claim. Where claimants with a terminal illness were brought to our attention, we worked with DEEOIC to ensure that these claims were expedited. And as noted earlier, DEEOIC's presence at our town hall meetings has been very effective. We look forward to continuing these efforts in the coming year.

Overall, our goal for the coming year is to further expand on our outreach — with a special emphasis on continuing to sponsor town hall meetings and to develop information that can be disseminated to the public.

With respect to the previous year, the chart below compares Part E statistics as of December 29, 2006 (the date used in the 2006 annual report) with January 8, 2008. As the chart illustrates, in every category where a comparison is permissible, DEEOIC has shown an increase during the course of the year — applications filed; recommended decisions approved; final decisions approved; payments and total dollars.

(Claims)

December 29, 2006

January 8, 2008

+/-

Applications Filed

58,943

69,269

+10,326

Recommended Decisions (Approved)

10,308

16,292

+5984

Recommended Decisions (Denied)

25,275

16,945*

N/A*

Final Decisions (Approved)

8,861

15,245

+6384

Final Decisions (Denied)

19,733

14,396*

N/A*

Payments

4,400

8,420

+4020

Total Dollars

$534,576,042

$950,447,566

+$415,871,514

*With regard to covered applications only.2

The statistics for January 8, 2008, also reflect an almost even balance between approved and denied claims.

Claims

January 8, 2008

Recommended Decisions (Approved)

16,292

Recommended Decisions (Denied)

16,945*

Final Decision (Approved)

15,245

Final Decision (Denied)

14,396*

*With regard to covered applications only.

However, these statistics do not include non-covered applications - claims that were denied because the applicant did not establish that the employee had covered employment or where the survivor did not meet the relationship or dependency requirements. DEEOIC statistics show that as of January 8, 2008 there were a total of 22,353 non-covered applications, of which 3,151 involved "non-covered employment," and 19,231 involved a survivor who was not covered.

Overall, these statistics generally coincide with what has been our experience — not just for the past year, but for the past few years - while many claimants have been awarded benefits, there is a greater number (when you include both covered and non-covered applications) who have not been successful in their pursuit of EEOICPA benefits.3


1DEEOIC currently provides services through eleven resource centers strategically located to assist potential claimants by supplying information about Part B and Part E of EEOICPA. A listing of these eleven resource centers can be found at Appendix II.
2Excludes non-covered applications — i.e., applications where the claimant did not establish that the employee had covered employment or where a survivor did not meet the relationship or dependency requirements.
3Our Office also hears from people who have not filed a claim because they believe that they are not covered under the Act. We generally encourage these individuals to contact the resource center.

 

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