TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

Paragraph and Subject                Page  Date   Trans. No.

 

Chapter 1-0200 Processing Mail

 

     Table of Contents  . . . . . .    i    08/14     14-03

  1  Purpose and Scope  . . . . . .    1    08/14     14-03

  2  Types of Mail. . . . . . . . .    1    08/14     14-03

  3  Electronic Recordkeeping . . .    3    08/14     14-03

  4  Unreviewed Mail Notification      3    08/14     14-03

  5  Handling Mail Received

       in DEEOIC Office. . . . . .     4    08/14     14-03    

  6  Physical Evidence . . . . . . .   6    08/14     14-03

  7  Personally Identifiable

       Information (PII). . . . . .    7    08/14     14-03

  8  Outgoing Mail. . . . . . . . .    12   08/14     14-03

  9  Returned Mail. . . . . . . . .    12   08/14     14-03

 

 

Exhibits

 

  1  OIS Subjects and Categories. .        08/14     14-03

  2  FOIA Process Flow. . . . . . .        08/14     14-03

  3  Data Release Form. . . . . . .        08/14     14-03

  4  USPS Postmaster Address

  Request Letter . . . . . . .        08/14     14-03

 


1.   Purpose and Scope.  This chapter identifies the different types of mail received by the Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation (DEEOIC) and outlines mail-processing procedures. In addition, the chapter contains procedures for case mail association, outgoing mail processing and handling returned mail.  Also provided is information regarding the handling of priority correspondence, including Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act requests, and the safeguarding of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in the disclosure of claim records.

 

2.   Types of Mail.  Most mail received by a DEEOIC Office is through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).  However, some mail is received by private overnight mail service, facsimile transmission (fax), electronic mail (e-mail), or by hand.  Mail is grouped as follows:

 

a. Priority Correspondence.  The Department of Labor (DOL) considers mail to and from the following parties as priority correspondence:

 

(1)  The President and White House Staff;

 

(2)  The Vice President and members of the Vice President's staff;

 

(3)  The President Pro Tempore of the Senate;

 

(4)  The Speaker of the House of Representatives;

 

(5)  Other Members of Congress;

 

(6)  Members of the Cabinet;

 

(7)  Governors of States;

 

(8)  Foreign government officials (e.g., Prime Ministers, Cabinet-level officers, Ambassadors, etc.);

 

(9)  Directors/Managers of employee organizations;

 

(10) Directors/Managers of national and international labor organizations;

 

(11) Members of the press; and

 

(12) Requestors of data under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act.

 

b.   Primary Claim Forms.  These documents, which contain information on new claims, include:

 

(1)  EE-1, Claim for Benefits under the EEOICPA;

 

(2)  EE-2, Claim for Survivor Benefits under the EEOICPA; and

 

(3)  Any letter or document containing “words of claim” under the EEOICPA.  “Words of claim” simply means that the individual is requesting benefits under the EEOICPA.

 

c.   Bills.  Form OWCP-1500 is used to bill the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) for medical services and supplies.  Hospital bills are submitted on the Form OWCP-04.  Form OWCP-915 is used for employee reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical expenses.  Form OWCP-957 is used for employee reimbursement of medical travel expenses.

 

d.   Fiscal Documents. Fiscal items may include an EN-20, payment transaction forms (PTF), payment cancellation forms, etc.

 

e.   Routine Mail.  Other types of mail typically received by the DEEOIC include:

 

(1)  Documents from claimants and/or their authorized representative (AR), such as: medical records,  employment records, exposure records, birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, school records, affidavits, address changes, waivers,  requests for an oral hearing, review of the written record, reconsideration, or reopening;

 

(2)  Documents from the Department of Energy (DOE), contractors, and/or subcontractors;

 

(3)  Information from other agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Social Security Administration (SSA), and the Department of Justice (DOJ);

 

(4)  Medical reports from attending physicians;

 

(5)  Mail from contractual sources, including reports from a Contract Medical Consultant (CMC), Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), and second opinion and referee specialists;

 

(6)  Occupational/Exposure reports from an Industrial Hygienist (IH) and Toxicologist (Tox);

 

(7)  Requests for information from other Federal, state, and local government agencies; and

 

(8)  Case-specific documents forwarded from other offices within DEEOIC, including a Resource Center (RC), for file association.

 

3.   Electronic Recordkeeping. The DEEOIC maintains case file records in both paper and electronic form. Incoming paper mail is processed and scanned for electronic storage by a contractor at the Central Mail Room (CMR), located in London, Kentucky. The CMR date stamps the document(s) and its corresponding envelope, assesses the quality of the electronic image, and associates the document(s) with the appropriate case record in the OWCP Imaging System (OIS). The electronic document(s) is then indexed according to predetermined subjects and categories. The subjects and categories into which mail is sorted and filed, and the types of documents included in each, can be found in Exhibit 1, OIS Subjects and Categories.  

 

4.   Unreviewed Mail Notification. Once the CMR has imaged a document and associated it with an existing case file record, an electronic notification is sent through OIS to the appropriate Claims Examiner (CE), notifying him/her that mail has been received in a case for which he/she is assigned. The assigned CE is to verify that the unreviewed mail has been associated with the appropriate case file, that the document was indexed correctly into the appropriate subject/category, and must review the entirety of the document and ensure that proper action is taken in response to the information provided. It is important that the CE check OIS for new mail on a daily basis.

 

5.   Handling of Mail Received in a DEEOIC Office.  While the CMR contractor handles the bulk of incoming mail for scanning and association with claim records, some mail and faxes will occasionally be received in DEEOIC offices. The Mail & File (M&F) Clerk(s) in each office carefully inspect the contents of incoming envelopes to ensure that all contents are removed. For faxes, the M&F Clerk inspects the submission to make sure that it is complete and relates to a single claim.  The envelope (or in case of fax, the top page of the document) must be date-stamped, indicating the DEEOIC office location in which the mail was received and the year, month, day, and time of receipt. Subsequently, the M&F Clerk forwards the faxes and mail to the CMR for incorporation into OIS.

 

The nature of some correspondence may require action at the DEEOIC district office level to image documents into OIS locally, at the office’s discretion. Such documents may include, but are not limited to:

 

a.  EE/EN-20 Acceptance of Payment Under the EEOICPA. At the time a payment is Authorized by the District Director (or an approved person with the DD role), all documents associated with the payment (i.e. EN-20, Payment Transaction Form (PTF), Payment Memo, Screen Print, etc.) are to be bronzed and saved as a “payment packet” in OIS. Once the payment packet is bronzed, the documents will be labeled with a unique identifier and filed under the Category: Forms and Claims; Subject: PTF. The payment packet will be described using a unique identifier consisting of the letters “PMT” followed by the first 4 letters of the payee’s last name, the last 4 numbers of the payee SSN, and the Authorization Date as it appears on the PTF. For example, a payment to someone named Jones, with a “last 4” of 9876, and an Authorization Date of 01/01/2014 would be stored in OIS as follows:

 

Category:             Forms & Claims

Subject:              PTF

Description:          PMT JONE9876, 01-01-2014

 

b.  SSA-581 Authorization to Obtain Earnings Data from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA requires an original signed copy of the SSA-581. As such, a copy of the SSA-581 is to be bronzed into the appropriate case record in OIS, and the original is sent to SSA for processing. 

 

c.  Documents Pertaining to a Terminal Claimant. Because documents in terminal cases are time-sensitive and require swift action, mail of this kind received at a DEEOIC office is  directed to the assigned CE for immediate incorporation into OIS and appropriate handling.

 

d.  Priority Correspondence. Priority correspondence generally pertains to the request for information and/or status of a claim from the claimant or an authorized third party.  Consequently, priority correspondence is time sensitive and requires careful attention in its review and response.

 

Of the priority correspondence listed in paragraph 2a above, the most common are FOIA requests, Privacy Act requests, and Congressional inquiries. In instances when a third party makes such a request (other than a FOIA request), a waiver signed by the claimant or AR must be included.

 

(1)    FOIA Requests.  FOIA requests allow third parties to request and gain access to existing Federal Government information, as outlined under 5 U.S.C. §552. FOIA requests are highly time sensitive and require careful attention as they involve the disclosure of specific documentation pertaining to the DEEOIC and/or its claimants.  Each DEEOIC Office is to have a FOIA coordinator to effectively facilitate the identification and processing of FOIA requests.

 

Exhibit 2 shows a FOIA Process Flow chart which identifies the steps to be taken in order to accurately and expeditiously process a FOIA request received in a DEEOIC office.

 

(2)  Congressional Inquiries.  On behalf of their constituents, Congresspersons submit requests for information pertaining to a claimant’s EEOICPA claim.  The responsible district office or Final Adjudication Branch (FAB) office is responsible for ensuring that these inquiries receive a comprehensive review and that a response is prepared in a timely manner.

 

(3)  Privacy Act.  The Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. §552a, applies to an individual seeking information about him or herself.  The law provides an individual the right to access records  maintained in federal systems of record (e.g., claim files)that are retrievable by his or her name or other personal identifiers. 

 

Examples of Privacy Act requests received by DEEOIC include requests for a copy of a case file or a specific document from a case file (e.g., CMC report, SSA records).  Privacy Act requests may be submitted by claimants, an AR or authorized third parties. 

 

(a)    Handling document requests. In instances when a claimant, AR or authorized third party is seeking a copy of the entire case file record, or a specific document in a case file, the CE is to:

 

(i)    Access the Energy Compensation System (ECS) to determine if the case file has an imaged component.

 

(ii)  Copy relevant documents from the paper case file and/or OIS. 

 

(iii)     Determine what information, if any, needs to be redacted.

  

(iv)  Before copies are sent, the CE/HR reviews the case file and the redacted copies, and completes a Data Release Form (Exhibit 3). The CE/HR then provides a copy of the redacted case file to the appropriate Supervisory CE, Senior CE, or HR for review to ensure the documents are appropriately redacted. (The CE/HR is only permitted to release documents that have been reviewed, and whose release has been approved by the appropriate Disclosure Officer or his/her designee. See OWCP Procedure Manual 1-400.5.d.) The Data Release Form is to be bronzed into the appropriate case record in OIS.

 

6.   Physical Evidence. Any documents or other physical evidence submitted by a claimant is to be retained by the Program as part of the case record.  Program literature and other public notices are to include instruction to the claimants as to the appropriate types of evidence to submit in support of a claim.  Claimants should not send original documents to the CMR (e.g., birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates).  The CMR will scan these types of records, but it may not be possible to return them to the submitting claimant.

 

a.   Portable Media. The types of documents and evidence received by the DEEOIC in support of EEOICPA claims is varied and can occasionally consist of physical evidence  which cannot be imaged into OIS, such as portable media, X-rays, etc. In such instances, the district office is to incorporate this information with the paper case file, making a notation in the electronic OIS record that physical evidence exists in the case. If no paper case file exists, a new file is to be created in which to store the physical evidence and is maintained by the district office.

 

7.   Personally Identifiable Information (PII).  PII is defined as information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity, such as his or her name, SSN, or biometric records, alone or when combined with other personal or identifying information that is linked or linkable to a specific individual, such as a date and place of birth or mother’s maiden name. 

 

During the adjudication process, the DEEOIC collects, maintains, and shares a large amount of data.  It is of the utmost importance that all DEEOIC staff maintains the privacy of all claimants and safeguards PII contained within the case record from unauthorized and improper disclosure.

 

a.   Protected PII.  Protected PII is information, which if disclosed, can result in harm to the individual whose name or identity is linked to that information.  Examples of Protected PII include, but are not limited: SSN, credit card number, bank account number, biometric identifiers (e.g. image, fingerprint, and iris), date of birth, place of birth, mother’s maiden name, criminal records, medical records, and financial records.

 

b.   Non-Sensitive PII.  Non-sensitive PII is information, which if disclosed, cannot reasonably be expected to result in personal harm to the individual the information is linked to.  Examples of non-sensitive PII that can become Protected PII if linked with other Protected PII include, but are not limited to: first/last name, e-mail address, business address, business telephone, and general education credentials.

 

c.   Categories of PII that Indirectly Identify an Individual.

 

(1)  Any information where it is reasonably foreseeable that the information can be linked with other information to identify an individual;

 

(2)  Documentation not containing a name or SSN but containing a place of birth and mother’s maiden name, which when taken together, can identify a specific individual; and

 

(3)  Documentation containing the name or names of other individuals (e.g., names of co-workers).

 

d.   Information Pertaining to Deceased Individuals.  An individual’s right to privacy ends upon his or her death.  Therefore, a deceased person’s name, address or SSN is not considered PII. However, documentation referring to a deceased person can contain PII regarding other living individuals.

 

e.   Information Pertaining to Living Individuals.  All DEEOIC staff are to prevent the unauthorized release of PII contained in paper records, electronic records (e.g. e-mails), or any other material for any living individual.  This includes materials received from NIOSH, DOE, CPWR, corporate verifiers, unions, or any other source.

 

(1)  CDs from NIOSH and DOE may contain PII on other individuals. DEEOIC staff must thoroughly review all documents on a CD before releasing the information. If a document contains PII on an individual other than the claimant, the document is printed and the appropriate PII is redacted. A photocopy is then made of the newly redacted record to ensure that the redacted information cannot be detected. This redacted document is then scanned into OIS.

 

If the CD is identified as containing PII pertaining to individuals other than the claimant, DEEOIC staff will place a label on the CD that states:

 

NOTICE:

This CD and/or printed documents from the CD, includes confidential information on workers other than this employee. This information must be carefully reviewed and redacted before release, whether by electronic or printed version, pursuant to the Privacy Act.  Monetary fines may be imposed on an individual government employee for release of confidential information or personally identifiable information.

 

f.   E-Mail. All DEEOIC staff must comply with all prescribed OWCP directives concerning the use of e-mail containing PII. 

 

(1)  E-mails sent from one DEEOIC employee to another through the internal OWCP wide-area network (WAN) are considered secure.  E-mails to and from contractors who use the OWCP network (OWCP owned and properly configured equipment, including remote laptops that access the WAN) are also considered secure.  Central Bill Process “threads” provided through the secure website of the Bill Processing Agent (BPA) conform to this policy, as they are also secured within an accredited network. 

 

DEEOIC staff are permitted to list the employee’s name and case file ID in the body of an e-mail message.  However, the subject portion of the e-mail may not contain both the employee’s name, combined with any identifier considered Protected PII, outlined above.

 

(2)  E-mails between DEEOIC employees and parties outside of the OWCP network (e.g., Resource Centers, corporate verifiers, NIOSH, DOE) are not secure.  As such, DEEOIC staff are not permitted to disclose any protected PII in any part of the e-mail message and any attachments containing protected PII must be password protected or encrypted. 

 

Therefore an e-mail message can contain the last name and case ID number in the text of the message, as long as the SSN, full name, or other PII is not listed anywhere in the e-mail message. Accordingly, development letters must be faxed or mailed to corporate verifiers.

 

(3)  Case specific e-mails received from an outside party containing Protected PII are to be printed and uploaded into the OIS case file. DEEOIC staff are permitted to reply with an acknowledgement e-mail, removing any PII from the sender’s message and also advising the sender (e.g., claimants, physicians, Congressional offices) that DEEOIC does not conduct claims communication via e-mail, but only by telephone or letter, as e-mail cannot be considered secure. 

 

In addition, DEEOIC staff are to remove protected PII in any e-mail message chain and their attachments prior to forwarding them outside of the OWCP network.  However, if this is not possible, the documents should be faxed or sent via mail or courier.  Packages containing extracts of multiple protected PII records (e.g. to CPWR, DOE, RC) sent via courier must be tracked (e.g., sent by Registered Mail, Return Receipt, Fed Ex).

 

(4)  E-mail messages with the BPA concerning claimants may only include the claimant’s Central Bill Process Member ID. Claimant names are not to be included in the e-mail, unless in an encrypted attachment.

 

g.      Protected PII and Portable Media

 

(1)    Protected PII is only to be stored on portable media when absolutely necessary. Protected PII on portable media devices including laptops issued by DOL are to be protected with agency-approved encryption.  All reasonable measures are to be taken to ensure that portable media containing protected PII are stored inside a safe or in a secured, locked cabinet, room, or area during periods when the media is not in transit or active use.

 

(2)  Delivery of portable media containing protected PII, including CDs, DVDs, or other writable media is done through the USPS or other DOL authorized delivery service with the ability to track pickup, receipt, transfer, and delivery.  The portable media must be encrypted according to DOL standards and then double-wrapped in an opaque package or container that is sufficiently sealed to prevent inadvertent opening or reveal signs of tampering.  The decryption key is not included in the same package as the portable media, but instead sent in a separate package.

 

h.   Disposal of Documents and Electronic Media Containing Protected PII.  Hard copy documents and electronic media containing PII are not simply discarded in a wastebasket, but instead discarded in bins specifically designated for shredding or burning. 

 

i.   Improper Release of Protected PII.  If protected PII is improperly released to an incorrect individual, or documentation sent to the correct individual contains protected PII of another individual that was not redacted, DEEOIC staff must:

 

(1)  Contact the individual via telephone and registered mail to request the return of the document.  The DEEOIC staff member provides a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the return of the material directly to the DEEOIC;

 

(2)  Immediately notify Appropriate Management (District Director, Final Adjudication Branch (FAB) Manager or FAB Branch Chief) who in turn notifies the Regional Director or National Office, who complies with established departmental reporting requirements, documenting the type of PII disclosure, the circumstances surrounding the disclosure, how it was discovered, the appropriate actions taken to recover the document in question, and the disposition of the recovery effort; and

 

(3)  Track each PII recapture request within the Regional or FAB Office.

 

(a)  If the recapture of the PII documentation is successful, the incident becomes closed with the incident record filed and maintained in OWCP.

 

(b)  If the third party in possession of the improperly released documentation refuses to return it, the DEEOIC staff member reports the situation through appropriate management, through the Regional Director (except FAB), to the National Office, who will provide guidance.

 

8.   Outgoing Mail.  Outgoing mail is processed as follows:

 

a.   Envelopes.  All envelopes show the addressee's full mailing address, including the ZIP code.  If the addressee provides a P.O. Box and a street address, both are listed on the envelope.  Some post offices require a further separation of local mail, and such requirements are honored.

 

b.   Postage.  A postage meter is used to affix postage.  Airmail letters for overseas delivery are bundled separately from regular mail.

 

c.   Registered and Certified Mail.  These types of mail are processed according to USPS regulations and specific procedures established in each DEEOIC office.

 

d.   Overnight Express Mail.  The services of the designated contractor are used at the discretion of the DEEOIC. 

 

9.   Returned Mail.  Occasionally, mail sent out by the DEEOIC is returned by the USPS as undeliverable.  The effective handling of claims depends heavily on ensuring that the claimant and/or AR receive the correspondence sent by a DEEOIC Office.  Therefore, it is important that the DEEOIC maintain the current mailing address and phone number(s) of the claimant and/or AR.

 

     a.   Inaccurate or Unreadable Mailing Address.  On occasion, printing errors occur in which the mailing address contains a typo, is transposed, or is incomplete, and is thus returned as undeliverable. In such instances, the mailing address on the correspondence is examined and compared to the mailing address on file. If it is determined that a mistake was made by the DEEOIC, a corrected correspondence, with a new effective date, is prepared and resent to the correct mailing address and the release date is updated in ECS.

 

     b.   Unknown Address.  In such instances, sufficient attempts to obtain a correct address are made prior to administratively closing the claim.

 

          (1)  Check the Social Security Death Index Interactive Search website at http://ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/ssdi.cgi to verify the recipient is alive.  A print out of the search is to be imaged into the case record.

 

          (2)  Call the claimant or AR and request the current mailing address be verified in writing.  This request is also memorialized in writing.

 

          (3)  Review the case file in its entirety to determine if any new/different contact information for the claimant or authorized representative exists in any of the evidence;

 

          (4)  Contact the RC to see if they have contact information on the claimant or authorized representative. In instances of multiple claimants, they may also be contacted in an attempt to obtain updated contact information on the claimant or AR;

 

          (5)  Send a letter to the USPS Postmaster. Exhibit 4 shows a sample USPS Postmaster Address Request Letter.  Information regarding the appropriate postmaster to which this letter is to be sent can be obtained at http://www.usps.com/  under “Locate a Post Office”.

 

     e.   Administrative Closure of Claim.  If all efforts are exhausted and no updated information is obtained, the claim is in posture for administrative closure.  A memorandum is prepared outlining the unsuccessful efforts of obtaining a current address and that the claim is being administratively closed as a result.

 

 

Exhibit 1: OIS Subjects and Categories

Exhibit 2: FOIA Process Flow

Exhibit 3: Data Release Form

Exhibit 4: USPS Postmaster Address Request Letter