Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation (DEEOIC)
EEOICPA Part E Frequently Asked Questions
On October 28, 2004, the President signed into law legislation that abolished Part D, previously administered by the Department of Energy (DOE), and created a new program called Part E of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA or Act). The Part E program provides for a federal payment of compensation and medical benefits to DOE contractor or subcontractor employees and uranium workers covered by section 5 of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) who developed an occupational illness as a result of exposure to toxic substances at certain DOE and uranium facilities. Certain surviving family members of deceased workers who died as a result of an illness caused, aggravated, or contributed to by toxic substance exposure are also eligible for compensation. The Part E program will be administered by the Department of Labor (DOL).
On May 26, 2005, DOL released Interim Final Regulations that describe how Part E will be administered. These regulations are intended to provide clear guidance on the application of the Act by DOL and how the claims adjudication process will function.
The following is a series of commonly asked questions about the Part E program.
Q1 – Who is eligible to file for benefits under Part E?
A – DOE contractor or subcontractor employees, and uranium miners, millers and ore transporters covered by section 5 of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), who developed a covered illness as a result of an exposure to a toxic substance at a DOE facility or a RECA section 5 facility, as appropriate, are covered under Part E. Certain family members of a deceased worker may be eligible for survivor benefits.
Q2 – What is a DOE facility?
A – A DOE facility is a location determined by DOL to be any building, structure, or premise in which DOE operations are or have been conducted, except in connection with the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, where DOE has or had:
- A proprietary interest; or
- Entered into a contract with an entity to provide management and operation, management and integration, environmental remediation services, construction, or maintenance services.
A current listing of applicable DOE facilities is available at www.eh.doe.gov/advocacy/faclist/findfacility.cfm. You may also call your local district office or resource center if you are seeking information on the status of a particular work site.
Q3 – What constitutes a toxic substance?
A – A toxic substance is any material that has the potential to cause illness or death because of its radioactive, chemical, or biological nature. Some examples of common toxic substances include: asbestos, acetone, beryllium, benzene, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel, silica, thorium, and uranium.
Q4 – Is Part B of the EEOICPA still in effect?
A – Yes. Part B is still in effect and DOL continues to process claims under that provision of the law.
Q5 – What is the difference between Part B and Part E?
A – Part B provides benefits to eligible current or former employees of the DOE, and certain of its vendors, contractors and subcontractors, and to certain survivors of such individuals as provided in the Act. To be eligible, an employee must have sustained a radiogenic cancer, chronic silicosis, beryllium sensitivity, or chronic beryllium disease while in the performance of duty at a covered DOE facility, atomic weapons employer facility or a beryllium vendor facility during a specified period of time. Part B provides benefits in the amount of $150,000 and covers medical expenses related to the accepted condition. Part B also provides for payment of a smaller lump-sum of $50,000 to individuals (who also receive medical benefits) or their eligible survivors, who were determined to be eligible for compensation under section 5 of RECA.
Part E provides benefits to DOE contractor and subcontractor employees and to certain uranium workers who developed a covered illness as a result of exposure to any toxic substance (including the three covered by Part B) at a DOE facility or RECA section 5 facility, as appropriate. It grants covered employees a federal payment based on the level of impairment and/or years of qualifying wage-loss if they developed a covered illness as a result of exposure to toxic substances. Certain survivors of deceased workers are also eligible to receive compensation, if the covered illness caused, aggravated or contributed to the employee’s death. Part E provides that a maximum aggregate compensation of $250,000 can be paid to all claimants as a result of the exposure of a covered Part E Employee and also covers medical expenses related to covered conditions.
Certain categories of employees covered by Part B (DOE employees and employees of private firms classified as atomic weapons employers or beryllium vendors) are covered by Part B only and not Part E.
Part E covers any condition found to be related to exposure to toxic substances at a covered facility, while Part B only covers cancer caused by exposure to radiation, beryllium illness and chronic silicosis in workers in Alaska or Nevada mining tunnel related to atomic weapons.
Q6 – I have a Part B claim that was filed and is awaiting dose reconstruction, do I have to wait for a decision under Part B before I can file under Part E?
A – No. You may file for benefits under Part E at any time regardless of the status of your Part B claim.
Q7 – I had a radiogenic cancer denied under Part B because my probability of causation was under 50%. Will my cancer be covered under Part E?
A – While the Part E test for determining whether a cancer solely caused by radiation is the same as under Part B (probability of causation of 50% or more), Part E also covers cancer caused by exposure at covered facilities to toxic substances other than radiation, which can be established based upon medical evidence from a physician. If evidence of exposure to a toxic substance is found by DOL to be “at least as likely as not” a significant factor in causing, aggravating, or contributing to the development of the cancer, it will be accepted under Part E. Additionally, in instances where an employee was exposed to radiation and another toxic substance(s), DOL will determine through evaluation of medical evidence whether the combination of radiation and other toxic substance(s) caused the covered illness and accept the claim if it did.
Q8 – If I previously filed a claim under Part D with the DOE, do I need to file a new claim under Part E?
A – No. The recent amendment abolished the Part D program. All claims previously filed under Part D with the DOE have been transferred to DOL and will be adjudicated under Part E.
Q9 – If my Part D claim was denied by DOE, should I file a new claim under Part E with DOL?
A – No. It will not be necessary for you to file a new claim with DOL. All Part D claims that were denied by DOE will be reviewed by DOL under Part E.
Q10 – I received a positive finding from the Physician Panel under Part D. Will DOL honor this finding?
A – Yes. Positive Physician Panel determinations under Part D that had been accepted by DOE will be accepted for causation by DOL under the new Part E program.
Q11 – What is the Office of Ombudsman and what is its role?
A – The Office of the Ombudsman was created as part of the amendment to the EEOICPA that was passed on October 28, 2004. The Act specifies that an Ombudsman be selected by the Secretary of Labor to perform several functions:
- To provide information on the benefits available under Part E and on the requirements and procedures applicable to the provision of such benefits.
- To make recommendations to the Secretary regarding the location of resource centers for the acceptance and development of claims for benefits under Part E.
- To carry out such other duties with respect to Part E as the Secretary shall specify.
- To provide Congress with an annual report concerning Part E discussing complaints, grievances, and requests for assistance and assessing the most common difficulties encountered by claimants and potential claimants.
On February 24, 2005, Donald Shalhoub was selected to serve as Ombudsman. He may be reached by calling (202) 693-5890 or toll-free at (877) 662-8363. You may also reach him via email at email@example.com. For more information on the Office of the Ombudsman, please visit the website at www.dol.gov/eeombd.
Q12 – I worked at a facility that is designated as a beryllium vendor and atomic weapons employer. Am I eligible for benefits under Part E?
A – No. Part E benefits are limited to DOE contractor or subcontractor employees, and uranium miners, millers and ore transporters covered by section 5 of the RECA. Certain family members of a deceased worker may also file for survivor benefits. Employees of an AWE or beryllium vendor are not covered under Part E.
Q13 – How is DOL going to determine if it is “at least as likely as not” that exposure to a toxic substance was a significant factor in the development of a covered illness?
A – DOL is going to obtain the opinion of qualified medical specialists with expertise in treating, diagnosing or researching the illness claimed. Additional information will also be collected on the types and levels of toxic substances that existed at DOE and RECA section 5 facilities. This information will be analyzed by appropriate specialists to determine if a particular level of toxic substance exposure is considered a significant factor in the development of certain illness types. DOL will utilize the same dose reconstruction probability of causation analysis utilized in Part B to determine whether to cover a cancer alleged to have resulted from exposure to radiation.
Q14 – Where will DOL obtain information on the various industrial chemicals, metals, solvents, and other toxic materials used by DOE?
A – DOL has collected large amounts of data in regard to the multitude of industrial materials used throughout the atomic weapons complex. For each DOE or RECA section 5 facility, an exposure matrix will be developed which will provide a historical description of the types of industrial toxins present and the processes in which they were utilized. This information will be collected from various sources such as the DOE itself, former worker programs, unions, and the claimants themselves, and will be used to assist claimants in developing their claims.
Q15 – What if I file a claim and DOL says that there is no proof of the toxic exposure that I am claiming?
A – Each person who files a claim is ultimately responsible for establishing each required element of the claim. If a person claims exposure to a certain toxic substance and DOL is not able to obtain information on that substance from available resources, the claimant must provide evidence to support the claim. This can be done using a variety of evidence that a claimant may possess including affidavits from co-workers or associates.
Q16 – How can DOE contractor employees and their survivors meet all the requirements necessary to prove that their illnesses resulted from toxic exposures in the DOE weapons facilities – especially when medical records are lost, exposure information may not have been kept, or they didn’t know what they might have been exposed to?
A – While claimants have the ultimate burden of proof to show that their claims meet the requirements for compensation, DOL staff will assist them in developing their case. This is a process that DOL uses routinely in its other workers’ compensation programs and it will be carefully and explicitly spelled out in the Energy program’s procedures and related documents, all of which will be published on our website where the public can view them.
For example, if a claimant has trouble providing sufficient medical evidence to link his or her illness to the work place exposure, DOL can procure specialized medical reviews to supplement the medical record. If the claimant is unable to specify what toxic materials he or she might have been exposed to, DOL will make use of an exposure matrix it is currently developing, including information about the toxic materials present at each site, their prevalence and intensity, and the types of medical conditions that have been found to be related to such exposures. All of this information will be carefully considered in the evaluation of each claim.
Q17 – Why does my Part E claim for cancer have to go through the dose reconstruction?
A – DOL is using the same probability of causation calculation utilized in Part B to determine if exposure to radiation either caused or contributed to a worker’s cancer (a cancer can not be aggravated). The dose reconstruction/probability of causation process provides the claimant with a benefit of doubt, claimant-favorable assessment, based on reasonable scientific assumptions, as to the likelihood a person’s cancer was caused or contributed to by radiation exposure.
Q18 – My doctor says that I have elevated levels of lead in my system as a result of my employment, but there are no symptoms or treatment. Do I qualify for coverage under Part E?
A – Coverage is only afforded if DOL determines based upon medical evidence that a claimant has sustained an illness.
Q19 – What is the definition of an eligible survivor under Part E?
A – The EEOICPA is very specific in its definition of a qualifying survivor. The statute defines a survivor under Part E as either a spouse who had been married to the employee for at least one year immediately prior to his or her death or, if there is no such qualified spouse, a child who, at the time of the employee’s death, was under the age of 18, under the age of 23 and continuously enrolled as a full-time student, or any age, if incapable of self support. Adopted, recognized natural children and step-children (who lived with the employee in a regular parent-child relationship) may also be eligible if they meet the above criteria.
Q20 – Why is the definition of an eligible survivor under Part E different than under Part B?
A – Congress specified different definitions of an eligible survivor for Part B and Part E. Since the Act clearly delineates the definition of survivor for each program, DOL is obligated to apply the survivor definitions as provided for in the law.
Q21 – Can DOL change the survivorship age requirement?
A – DOL does not have the legal authority to modify the definition of survivor under the law.
Q22 – As a survivor, if I accept the payment of $125,000, will I be eligible for additional compensation due to wage-loss/impairment?
A – In addition to the $125,000, a survivor may receive additional compensation in increments of $25,000 based on the employee’s years of qualifying lost wages. For example, if there are no qualifying lost wages, the survivor is only entitled to $125,000. If the employee had qualifying wage-loss for a period of time of at least 10 years but less than 20 years, the survivor will receive $150,000. If the employee had at least 20 years of qualifying wage-loss, the survivor will receive $175,000.
Q23 – If an employee dies before retirement age, do those years qualify in determining additional survivor benefits?
A – DOL will presume that the deceased employee (in a Part E claim only) experienced qualifying wage-loss for each calendar year after the calendar year of his or her death up to and including the calendar year when he or she would have reached his or her normal retirement age under the Social Security Act (SSA). IMPAIRMENT RATINGS
Q24 – What is an impairment rating and how often is someone going to be able to be rated?
A – An impairment rating is a medical determination that describes the extent to which an individual’s organs and body functions do not work. The AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment is the standard which the Act requires DOL to use for determining the level of impairment. When DOL determines the percent of whole person impairment assigned to an individual due to any accepted illness, it will award a payment of $2500 for each percent of impairment. An impairment rating can be made at the point at which a medical determination is reached that a person’s medical condition is well stabilized and will not improve through treatment. However, if there is probative medical evidence that the employee’s medical condition is in the terminal stages, an impairment rating can be determined even if the employee’s impairment is not well stabilized. A person can file a request with DOL to be re-evaluated every two years for additional compensation, if their impairment increases due to the same covered illness(es).
Q25 – Why only every two years?
A – Impairment ratings are complicated, and depend on the person’s medical condition reaching a certain level of stability. The two-year period allows for the claimant to seek additional benefits on a reasonably current basis, without having the system clogged with constant requests for re-evaluations.
Q26 – Who will determine my impairment rating, a DOL doctor or my doctor?
A – DOL determines impairment ratings based upon a physician’s evaluation. The evaluation can be performed by a physician of the claimant’s choice or the DOL can obtain a physician to perform an evaluation. However, the physician conducting the impairment rating must meet certain qualifications DOL has identified for performing ratings for specific illnesses according to the AMA guides. DOL can also seek an additional evaluation when necessary.
Q27 – Who pays for an impairment rating?
A – Generally, DOL pays for one impairment evaluation as long as the evaluation meets the criteria outlined in the regulations. The evaluation must have occurred within one year of the date of its receipt by DOL. In addition, the physician must meet sufficient criteria to establish expertise in the use of the AMA’s Guides. The cost of obtaining additional evaluations may be covered at the claims examiner’s discretion. Ratings performed by physicians who do not meet DOL’s qualification standards for performing evaluations are not reimbursable.
Q28 – When does an individual with a chronic disease such as asbestosis reach “maximum medical improvement?”
A – DOL regulations allow for determining an impairment rating when an illness is “well-stabilized and unlikely to change substantially with or without medical treatment.” DOL expects to award impairment ratings for chronic disease under this formulation without the need for those claimants to wait for a recovery that is unlikely to occur.
Q29 – DOL’s regulations deny impairment benefits for impairments which are not listed in the AMA Guides. Does this mean that workers with neurotoxic effects from exposure to heavy metals such as mercury, lead or solvents will receive no impairment benefits?
A – Part E of EEOICPA specifically requires OWCP to determine impairment awards exclusively through use of the AMA Guides and does not allow impairment awards to be evaluated on any other basis. The AMA’s Guidelines to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (in Chapter 13) do provide for calculation of impairment ratings for an illness that affects the central and peripheral nervous systems. Thus, impairment awards will be available for neurotoxic effects of illnesses caused by exposure to such toxic substances as metals and solvents.
Q30 – Won’t this rule restrict benefit payments because it limits “impairment” to what the AMA Guides provide?
A – The amendment required DOL to use the AMA Guides to determine the degree of impairment that results in benefit compensation (at $2500 per each whole person percentage point of impairment due to a covered illness).
Q31 – If I had an impairment due to a non-accepted illness, how will DOL differentiate between that condition and my accepted illness?
A – Impairments arising out of non-accepted illnesses are not compensable. DOL will review the medical evidence as a whole to determine the origin of the impairment and seek medical review to differentiate between accepted and non-accepted conditions where necessary. Impairment evaluations will be based on whole-body impairment related to the covered conditions only.
Q32 – I had an impairment due to my accepted illness for many years that eventually went away. Can DOL calculate my rating based on the maximum impairment I had in the past?
A – Impairments that no longer exist are not compensable because they are temporary impairment. Congress required that impairment awards be based upon permanent impairments when it required impairment awards to be “determined in accordance with American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.” WAGE LOSS
Q33 – How will wage loss be determined?
A – Covered employees may be eligible to receive compensation for wage loss for each qualifying year (prior to normal SSA retirement age) in which their earnings fell a specific percentage below their average annual earnings for the 36-month period before they suffered a wage loss (not including periods of unemployment) as a result of the covered illness:
- $10,000 for any year in which wages were greater than 50% but less than 75% of their calculated average annual earnings as a result of a covered illness.
- $15,000 for any year in which wages were less than 50% of their calculated average annual earnings as a result of a covered illness.
Q34 – How often can I apply for additional wage loss?
A – An employee may be eligible for additional wage-loss benefits (for the accepted covered illness) for periods of wage loss that were not addressed in a prior claim for any years up to and including the year in which he/she reached SS retirement age. These claims can be filed on a yearly basis.
Q35 – What type of proof will I be required to submit to prove my wage loss?
A – In addition to medical evidence, various types of documentation may be submitted to establish earnings: Social Security earnings records; tax returns; pay stubs; union pension records; and SS disability records. This list is not exhaustive. DOL will assist in obtaining wage-loss information whenever possible (through SSA records or through other means).
Q36 – I am currently receiving SSA disability benefits due to a problem unrelated to my DOE work. How will you determine if I have a wage loss due to my accepted illness?
A – Medical evidence that wage loss is related to a covered illness must be submitted in order for wage-loss benefits to be afforded. Wage loss due to an unrelated condition that is not approved under Part E is not compensable.
Q37 – Will employees whose onset of illness occurs after retirement be eligible for compensation based on wage loss?
A – No. Wage loss occurring after established SS retirement age is not covered. DECISIONS & APPEAL RIGHTS
Q38 – How will DOL determine how much workers or their survivors will be paid from this new program?
A – The decision process is similar to other workers’ compensation and benefits systems– the worker’s case will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and if a toxic exposure at the DOE or RECA section 5 facility is found to have caused, contributed to or aggravated the covered illness, payments are made based on the amount of qualifying wage loss and the degrees of impairment the worker incurred due to the covered illness or based on the death of the worker if it was caused or contributed to by the exposure. Additional survivor benefits are available based on years of qualifying wage loss by the employee.
Q39 – What is the maximum amount of compensation available under Part E?
A – The maximum aggregate compensation payable under Part E to all claimants as a result of the exposure of a covered Part E employee is $250,000.
Q40 – Does the $250,000 cap include both Part B and Part E payments?
A – The Part E cap of $250,000 (plus covered medical expenses) does NOT include any payment for that case under Part B. (Part B benefits are $150,000 per covered employee, plus covered medical expenses).
Q41 –Why does the DOL rule have no provision for independent physician panel reviews where there are disputes over causation from exposure to toxic substances?
A – The regulations provide DOL with the authority to obtain additional medical evidence by referring the employee (or the medical records in the file) to another physician for a second opinion, and also provide for a referee examination where there is a conflict between the second opinion physician’s opinion and the one provided by the claimant’s physician. The final adjudication of claims by DOL will be undertaken by hearing representatives who will be able to obtain any medical evidence necessary for a fair determination. One of the principal obstacles to prompt adjudication of claims under repealed Part D was the required use of Physician Panels. The DOL rule gives the Department the latitude to ask several specialists to review a particularly complex condition if needed, but allows DOL to dispense with such cumbersome reviews where a single physician’s evaluation is likely to be sufficient.
Q42 – How will claims decisions be reached?
A – The Adjudication of claims under Part E follows the same process as those under Part B. DOL has four District Offices located in Cleveland, Ohio, Denver, Colorado, Jacksonville, Florida, and Seattle, Washington. These offices will be responsible for the adjudication of claims and the issuance of recommended decisions under Part E of the EEOICPA.
If the claimant disagrees with any part of a recommended decision, the claimant has the right to submit objections to the Final Adjudication Branch (FAB), in writing, within 60 days from the date of the recommended decision.
The claimant may choose between an oral hearing, conducted near where he or she lives, or a written review of the record. In either case, the claimant has an opportunity to present further evidence or argument to the hearing representative who makes the final decision. Once FAB issues a Final Decision, the claimant may request reconsideration by the FAB, which must be filed within 30 days from the date of the Final Decision or, if after 30 days, request that the claim be reopened. Once DOL’s decision on the claim is final, the claimant may also seek judicial review in federal court within 60 days of the DOL’s final decision.
Q43 – I have a claim pending in state workers’ compensation. Do I need to withdraw it to file under Part E?
A – No. However, DOL will reduce the amount of compensation payable under Part E by the amount of benefits the worker receives from a state workers’ compensation program for the same covered illness, after deducting the worker’s costs in obtaining those benefits.
Q44 – If my claim is ultimately approved, when would DOL start making payment for medical costs related to the accepted illness?
A – Medical benefits will be paid retroactive to the date of filing, but no sooner than October 30, 2000.
Q45 – I have a lot of different medical problems that are not related to an exposure to toxic substances from DOE work. Will Part E cover the cost of treatment of those conditions?
A – No. Medical treatment is available under Part E only for a covered illness caused by exposure to toxic substances in a DOE covered facility.
Q46 – Where can someone go for more information about the program or to file a claim?
A – DOL has a tremendous amount of information regarding the EEOICPA available online via www.dol.gov. In addition, there are 11 resource centers located around the country that can assist individuals seeking more information about the program or wanting to file a claim. To find a resource center located near you, please visit the website or call toll-free 1-866-888-3322.
Q47 – I filed a Part D claim that is now being adjudicated under Part E. Given that I’ve been waiting a long time for a decision; will my claim get priority treatment?
A – DOL is committed to identifying all Part D claims eligible for prompt adjudication under Part E. DOL is aware that a great many claimants who filed for benefits under Part D have been waiting a long time for a decision, and is doing everything in its power to develop and adjudicate claims as quickly as possible based upon available procedures.
Q48 – Will I be able to get updates on the computer as to where I am in the process as in Part D?
A – No, this is not a capacity that DOL has at this time. However, you may contact the District Office that has responsibility for your claim to obtain this information. The toll-free numbers for these offices are:
Jacksonville District Office — (877)
Cleveland District Office — (888) 859-7211
Denver District Office — (888) 805-3389
Seattle District Office — (888) 805-3401
Q49 – Who pays for attorneys fees, if my claim is approved?
A – Costs affiliated with the retention of an attorney or other paid representatives are solely the responsibility of the claimant who retained legal assistance. While the EEOICPA does set certain limits on the maximum chargeable amount by a representative, DOL will not pay for or reimburse these costs.
Q50 – What are your plans to discuss these regulations with the public?
A – We will host a series of town hall meetings – just as we did when the program was transferred to DOL in late October 2004, in the cities that have the most claimants and potential claimants. The primary purpose of this outreach effort is to explain to affected workers or their survivors the benefits available and how the claim process will work.
Q51 – Why did the Department of Labor issue an Interim Final Rule (IFR)?
A – As part of the amendment, the Department of Labor (DOL) was directed to prescribe regulations necessary to administer the new Part E program within 210 days of the amendment’s enactment. To accomplish this goal, DOL had to issue an IFR. DOL met the Congressional mandate to prescribe regulations and begin full implementation within 210 days of the amendment’s enactment.
Q52 – The IFR is effective immediately but there is a comment period – what will happen if significant changes must be made due to public comments?
A – DOL is familiar with the IFR process and has carried it out before, including the first part of the EEOICPA, Part B in 2001. DOL can and will make changes to the new regulations that are appropriate given public comment and its actual experience in implementing the Act when it issues final regulations in the near future. Because of DOL’s experience in administering similar programs, and because of the close relationship of Part E of EEOICPA to the existing Part B, DOL is confident that this process will again work well.
Q53 – Aren’t these complicated rules for processing Part E claims going to further delay getting payment to the thousands of people who have already waited four years under the DOE program? Won’t people have to start all over again at the end of the queue?
A – No. DOL already has all the old DOE (then called “Part D”) claims in hand, and is already preparing them for adjudication under the new system. Claimants do not have to do anything to start that process, and in fact, DOL has been able to process and pay about 500 very straightforward cases under the new program even before these rules were issued. We will now proceed to work as rapidly as possible to address all of the remaining cases (nearly 25,000) that we inherited from DOE. DOL is committed to moving these cases as quickly as we can, as demonstrated by our success in issuing the rule by the very tight congressionally mandated deadline.
Q54 – What role did the public have in formulating these regulations?
A – DOL relied on its own expertise in formulating the IFR. Now it has been published in the Federal Register, the public has the opportunity to review the IFR and comment on it as appropriate. The deadline for filing such comments is August 8, 2005. Prior to the issuance of the final regulations, issues or concerns raised by the public will be reviewed.
Q55 – Where can the public file comments on the IFR?
A – Instructions on how to submit comments are outlined in detail in the IFR at www.regulations.gov. There are three ways to submit comments on the regulations—by regular mail, by e-mail, and over the Internet.
Q56 – DOL’s web site says that there has been more than $61,000,000 in compensation paid under Part E. How were you able to make payments prior to the issuance of these regulations?
A – When the amendment was passed in October, 2004, certain provisions were so clear that the DOL was able to adjudicate claims that met specific, straightforward criteria that were contained in the amendment itself. As a result, certain survivors of deceased workers could be found to be eligible for a payment of $125,000 under Part E in advance of DOL issuing detailed regulations. Because we know that many of the people who were waiting for a decision under the old DOE program had been waiting for up to four years, we wanted to make any payments we could, as quickly as we could.
Q57 – What happened to the Part B claims while DOL was developing the IFR for Part E?
A – Part B is a separate and distinct compensation program under the EEOICPA. While DOL was working to implement Part E, claims under Part B continued to be adjudicated without interruption. As of May 19, 2005, we had received over 65,000 Part B claims and provided over $1 billion in compensation and medical payments to over 14,000 claimants.
Q58 – What is the total number of claims in the pipeline under Part E that DOL will have to adjudicate?
A – DOL has already received approximately 30,000 claims under Part E. Immediate action has already begun to adjudicate these claims to ensure that eligible employees or their survivors are granted the compensation due them as quickly as possible.
Q59 – With such a large backlog, how long does DOL estimate it will take to resolve these claims?
A – With such a large number of claims, there will be some cases where a decision will not be forthcoming immediately. DOL is committed to adjudicating each and every claim that has been presented. We have expanded our staff at the four district offices that will be processing the claims, created a new claims tracking system, implemented procedures, and begun employee training. With the release of the IFR, DOL intends to aggressively begin claim adjudication on a very large scale.
Q60 – Has DOL used an unreasonable standard for accepting cancers caused solely by radiation?
A – Coverage under Part E requires a finding that it is “at least likely as not” that exposure to a toxic substance at a Department of Energy facility was a significant factor in aggravating, contributing to, or causing the illness. DOL’s regulations utilize the probability of causation system developed for Part B. The probability of causation program developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Heath (NIOSH) estimates the number of cancers that occurred as a result of exposures to radiation in addition to those that would have occurred without any exposure to radiation. Since this includes all the cancers that would not have occurred but for the radiation exposure, the determination of “probability of causation” includes both cancers that are “caused” and those that are “contributed to” by radiation. (A cancer cannot be “aggravated” by exposure to radiation.) Thus, DOL has neither deviated from the explicit language of the act nor set an unreasonably high standard for claimants.
Q61 – If a worker has received a RECA Section 5 Award for a RECA condition, will that condition be accepted under Part E?
A – Yes. However, under Part E, a Section 5 award by the Department of Justice (DOJ) is not required. Since Part E medical and employment requirements differ greatly from requirements under Section 5 of the RECA, it is possible that a claimant might be denied under Section 5 of the RECA and still prevail under Part E of the EEOICPA. DOL will adjudicate its claims independently of DOJ.
Q62 – If a survivor of a RECA section 5 worker was awarded benefits under RECA, is the survivor eligible for benefits under Part E?
A – All survivors of RECA Section 5 workers must satisfy the Part E survivor definition in order to be eligible for benefits under Part E.
Q63 – Which uranium workers are potentially covered under Part E?
A – All uranium miners, uranium millers, and uranium ore or vanadium uranium ore transporters who were present at a uranium mine or mill located in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, South Dakota, Washington, Utah, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon or Texas from January 1, 1942 through December 31, 1971, are potentially covered.
Q64 – How is uranium worker employment verified?
A – Generally, DOL will verify uranium worker employment through DOJ. In instances where DOJ has no such information, DOL will use established employment development techniques to verify uranium worker employment on its own.
Q65 – How is employment and exposure evaluated and established for uranium workers under Part E?
A – Any verified employment at a uranium mine or mill located in the covered states during the covered time period will suffice to establish employment. However, alleged exposures of uranium miners and millers to toxic substances will have to be established by evaluating all of the relevant evidence available. Uranium ore or vanadium uranium ore transporters must show exposure by at least one day’s presence at a covered mine or mill.
Only exposure at covered facilities will be utilized to determine if an illness was caused by exposure to a toxic substance. DOL will obtain exposure data from DOJ and other sources when it adjudicates these. As with other workers, it must be shown that a claimed toxic substance was present at a given mine or mill and that the uranium worker came into contact with such substance.
Q66 – I have an accepted Section 5 RECA claim, and an accepted Part B claim for an additional $50,000. Am I eligible under Part E?
A – If you are an employee who received a Part B acceptance, you may be entitled to additional compensation for wage loss or impairment under Part E. If you are a survivor, you must meet the survivor criteria under Part E.