TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

Paragraph and Subject                Page  Date   Trans. No.

 

Chapter 1-0200 Processing Mail

 

     Table of Contents  . . . . . .    i    04/09     09-02

  1  Purpose and Scope  . . . . . .    1    04/09     09-02

  2  Mail and File (M&F) Staff. . .    1    04/09     09-02

  3  Types of Mail. . . . . . . . .    1    04/09     09-02

  4  Initial Sort . . . . . . . . .    3    04/09     09-02

  5  Opening and Date-Stamping Mail    4    04/09     09-02

  6  Identifying Case Locations . .    5    04/09     09-02

  7  Handling of Mail . . . . . . .    6    04/09     09-02

  8  Responding to Priority

       Correspondence . . . . . . .    8    04/09     09-02

  9  Personally Identifiable

       Information (PII). . . . . .    9    04/09     09-02

 10  Outgoing Mail. . . . . . . . .    17   04/09     09-02

 11  Returned Mail. . . . . . . . .    17   04/09     09-02

 

 

Exhibits

 

  1  FOIA Process Flow. . . . . . .         04/09     09-02

  2  Data Release Form. . . . . . .         04/09     09-02

  3  USPS Postmaster Address

  Request Letter . . . . . . .         04/09     09-02

 

1.   Purpose and Scope.  This chapter identifies the different kinds of mail received in a Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation (DEEOIC) Office and describes the procedures for processing them.  Instructions are provided on how to sort, open, and date-stamp incoming mail.  In addition, procedures for searching cases for mail association, processing outgoing mail, and handling returned mail are provided.  Guidance is also provided for the handling of priority correspondence, including requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act, and the safeguarding of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in the disclosure of claim records.

 

2.   Mail and File (M&F) Staff.  These individuals process mail received in the District Office (DO), Secondary Claims Examiner (CE2) Unit, Final Adjudication Branch (FAB), and the National Office (NO).  They open and date-stamp incoming mail and then use the “Inquiry” option in the Energy Case Management System (ECMS) to obtain file numbers and case locations.  They also determine the responsible Claims Examiner (CE), CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative, key case locations, and place incoming mail in the responsible staff member’s mailbox.  These individuals are also responsible for processing outgoing mail.

 

3.   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)  Heads of independent Federal establishments;

 

(8)  Governors of States;

 

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

 

(10) Directors/Managers of employee organizations;

 

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

 

(12) Members of the press; and

 

(13) 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 EE-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.   Routine Mail.  This mail, which is screened by designated DEEOIC staff, includes:

 

(1)  Documents from claimants and their authorized representatives, such as: medical records;  employment records;  exposure records;  birth, marriage, and death certificates;  school records;  affidavits; address changes;  waivers;  and requests for an oral hearing, a review of the written record, a reconsideration, or a 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 The Center to Protect Workers’ Rights (CPWR), District Medical Consultants (DMCs), and second opinion and referee specialists;

 

(6)  Occupational/Exposure reports from Industrial Hygienists (IHs) and Toxicologists (TXs);

 

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

 

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

 

e.   Other Mail.  This includes mail which does not concern specific claims.

 

4.   Initial Sort.  The M&F Clerk(s) separates certain envelopes from the rest of the incoming mail, as follows:

 

a.   Mail for Delivery Without Opening.  This mail includes:

 

(1)  Certified mail which requires the M&F Clerk to sign a receipt;

 

(2)  Mail for the Director, Regional Director, Branch Chiefs, District Director, or the administrative staff, who consist of the Administrative Officer, Management Officer, and the secretaries who conduct business on behalf of the NO, Regional Office, FAB, or the DO;

 

(3)  Material from the NO; and

 

(4)  Mail marked "Do Not Open in Mail Room" or the like (at the discretion of the DO, FAB, Regional Office, or NO).

 

b.   Mail for a Third Party Outside of OWCP.  If the third party is located in the same building, the mail is delivered to him or her.  If not, it is returned to the sender unopened.

 

5.   Opening and Date-Stamping Mail.

 

a.   Opening Mail.  The M&F Clerk must:

 

(1)  Check the contents inside of each envelope carefully to ensure that all contents are removed.  If the contents include a Form EE-1 or EE-2, correspondence with words expressing the desire to file a claim, a waiver, or a request for an oral hearing, a review of the written record, a reconsideration, or a reopening, the envelope is kept and attached to the document; and

 

(2)  Circle the file number.

 

b.   Date-Stamping Mail.  The date stamp prints the location of the receiving DEEOIC Office and the year, month, day, and time of receipt.  The date stamp is either an ink stamp or a perforated stamp.  All incoming mail is date-stamped before leaving the Mail Room.  The M&F Clerk date-stamps each item of mail on the front of the item.  If a piece of mail consists of multiple pages, each page is date-stamped individually.  The date stamp reflects the

actual date that the incoming mail is received in a DEEOIC Office, and not necessarily when it is reviewed by a DEEOIC staff member.

 

(1)  If an ink stamp is used, the stamp is not placed over any writing. 

 

6.   Identifying Case Locations.  The M&F Clerk identifies which case each piece of mail belongs to and its location prior to associating the mail with the case.

 

a.   Unnumbered Mail.  If the mail does not contain a file number, the M&F Clerk finds the number by entering the claimant’s name in the “View Case” function under the “Inquiry” option in ECMS.

 

(1)  If a match is found, the M&F Clerk notates the file number, current location code, and the assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative in the upper right corner.  The mail is then placed in the appropriate location to be sorted and forwarded to the assigned DEEOIC staff member.

 

(2)  If a match is not found, the M&F Clerk writes "NID" (not in database) in the upper right corner and gives it to the appropriate Supervisory CE or Manager, who decides whether to create a case, route the mail within the respective DEEOIC Office without having to create a case, or return it to the sender.

 

b.   Numbered Mail.  If the mail contains a file number, the M&F Clerk uses the “View Case” function under the “Inquiry” option in ECMS to obtain the current location code and the assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative.  He or she notates that information on the upper right corner.

 

(1)  If an error message appears when the file number is entered, the M&F Clerk enters the claimant’s name in the “View Case” function under the “Inquiry” option in ECMS to verify that the mail contains the correct file number.  If it does not, the M&F Clerk notates the correct number in the upper right corner on the piece of mail.

 

(2)  If the correct file number cannot be identified, the M&F Clerk gives the mail to the appropriate DEEOIC staff member (See paragraph 6a(2) above).

 

c.   Mail for Other DEEOIC Offices.  Mail sent to other DEEOIC Offices, including mail for cases that have been loaned or transferred, is date-stamped, collected, and forwarded to the appropriate DEEOIC Office, as identified in ECMS, on a daily basis by the USPS or by private overnight mail service.

 

7.   Handling of Mail.  After checking the mail for its file number and location, the M&F Clerk handles it according to type.

 

a.   Groups of Mail.  The M&F Clerk sorts the mail into the following groups:

 

(1)  Priority correspondence, along with the case file, is hand carried to the person designated to handle priority correspondence in the DEEOIC Office;

         

(2)  Primary claim forms require creation of a new case unless a case has already been created and coded (See EEOICPA PM 1-0300).  The M&F Clerk then keys the case in ECMS and delivers it to the assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative;

 

(3)  Bills including, but not limited to, medical services/testing, medical supplies, medical travel expenses, home and automobile modifications, spa/gym membership, and impairment rating reports (performed by the claimant’s chosen physician) for the accepted condition(s) are forwarded to the assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative who then forwards them to the Bill Processing Agent (BPA) on behalf of the claimant.

 

Bills for copying medical records for a claimed condition(s) are forwarded to the assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative who then forwards them to the BPA on behalf of the claimant.

 

Bills for medical reports from DMCs are first routed to the District Medical Scheduler, for tracking purposes, who then forwards to the assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative for review and coding in ECMS.

 

In those cases where there is an offset/surplus, it is especially important for DEEOIC staff to review incoming bills (excluding those for impairment ratings or from DMCs) and then forward to the Fiscal Officer for tracking purposes;  

 

(4)  Routine mail is sorted by assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative and delivered to each respective unit.  However, the following kinds of mail are delivered directly to the Fiscal Officer, at the DO’s discretion:

 

(a)  Requests for action when a check was lost or an electronic funds transfer (EFT) was not received; and

 

(b)  Transactions or other documents from the Department of the Treasury; and

 

(5)  Other mail is handled as follows:

 

(a)  General inquiries include questions about OWCP's practices and requests for technical assistance.  Letters in this category are routed accordingly at the discretion of the applicable DO, FAB, or NO; and

 

(b)  Interoffice memorandums are routed according to the party addressed.

 

b.   Sorting and Associating Mail.  Mail screened by the M&F Clerk is sorted each day and associated with the case files.

 

(1)  When mail is placed in the assigned DEEOIC staff member’s mailbox, the case file remains where it is, or is retrieved and given to the person working at that location, according to specific procedures established in each DO, FAB, and in NO.

 

(2)  The M&F Clerk does not remove a case file from its location (other than from the File Room) without notifying the DEEOIC staff member responsible for it.  The M&F Clerk enters a location code change in the “Case Update” screen of ECMS for any case that is moved (See EEOICPA PM 1-0500 Exhibit 2).

 

8.   Responding to Priority Correspondence.  Priority correspondence generally pertains to the request of information and/or status on a claim from the claimant or an authorized third party.  Consequently, priority correspondence is very delicate in nature and highly time sensitive, which requires careful attention in its review and response.  Actions pertaining to the receipt of and response to priority correspondence must be properly tracked.

 

Of the priority correspondence listed in paragraph 3a above, the more common ones encountered during the claim adjudication process are Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, Privacy Act requests, and Congressional Inquiries.  These requests are submitted in writing and signed by the claimant or authorized representative.  In instances where a third party makes the request, a waiver signed by the claimant or authorized representative must be included.

 

a.   Freedom of Information Act.  Freedom of Information Act (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 very important, as they involve the disclosure of specific documentation pertaining to the DEEOIC and/or its claimants. 

 

FOIA requests are highly time sensitive and require careful attention.  Each DEEOIC Office needs to have a FOIA coordinator to effectively facilitate the identification and processing of FOIA requests.  The request itself contains such verbiage that includes “request for records” and/or the acronym “FOIA”.  Exhibit 1 is the FOIA Process Flow chart which identifies the steps to take in order to accurately and expeditiously process a FOIA request that is received in a DEEOIC Office.

 

b.   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 that are maintained in federal “systems of records” (e.g., claim files) and are retrievable by his or her name or other personal identifier. 

 

Examples of Privacy Act requests received by DEEOIC include requests for a copy of an entire case file or a specific document from the case file (e.g., a DMC report, SSA records).  Privacy Act requests are submitted by claimants, authorized representatives, or third parties. 

 

c.   Congressional Inquiries.  On behalf of their constituents, written inquiries are made by Congressional Offices pertaining to a claimant’s DEEOIC claim.  These inquiries are reviewed and responded to in a written letter to the requesting Congressional Office within a timely manner.

 

9.   Personally Identifiable Information (PII).  Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is defined as information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity, such as his or her name, Social Security Number (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 claim adjudication process, the DEEOIC collects, maintains, and shares a large amount of data.  It is of utmost importance that all DEEOIC staff maintains the integrity of the privacy of the claim records and safeguard the PII contained within the documents from unauthorized and improper disclosure.  In addition, DEEOIC staff need to exercise care and vigilance in the daily operations of accessing, processing, transporting, and storing of sensitive data on end-user computing devices and portable media.  All DEEOIC staff must ensure that information provided to the recipient (e.g., development letters, Recommended Decisions, Final Decisions, Director’s Orders, copies of records) is accurate and pertains to that recipient (does not contain another individual’s PII). 

 

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 to, the following: SSN;  credit card number;  bank account number; residential address;  residential or personal telephone number;  biometric identifier (e.g., image, fingerprint, 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 the following: 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 PII; however, documentation referring to a deceased person can contain PII regarding living relatives, authorized representatives, or work associates.  As such, the DEEOIC staff member must be cognizant and cautious about the information pertaining to living individuals in the deceased employee’s case record.

 

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

 

(1)  CDs from NIOSH and DOE often contain PII on other individuals.  The DEEOIC staff member must thoroughly review all the documents on the CD before releasing the information.  If a document contains PII on an individual other than the claimant, the DEEOIC staff member prints the document and redacts the other individual’s PII by concealing the information with a black marker, opaque tape, or other method that completely removes the PII.  The DEEOIC staff member then makes a photocopy of the newly redacted record to ensure that the redacted information cannot be detected from the document(s). 

 

DEEOIC staff identify CDs (which remains in the case file) that contain PII on other individuals by placing a label on it that states the following:

 

NOTICE DEEOIC EMPLOYEE:

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 any release of the information from the CD, 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.

 

(2)  All DEEOIC staff must comply with all prescribed OWCP directives concerning the use of e-mails containing PII. 

 

 (a) E-mails sent from one DEEOIC employee to another DOL employee through the Employment Standards Administration (ESA) wide-area network (WAN) are considered secure.  E-mails to and from contractors who use the ESA network (ESA owned and properly configured equipment, including remote laptops that access the ESA WAN) are also considered secure.  Central Bill Process (CBP) “threads” provided through the BPA’s secured website conform to this policy, as they are also secured within an accredited network. 

 

DEEOIC staff are permitted to list the employee’s name and file number in the body of an e-mail message.  However, the employee’s name (non-sensitive PII) combined with the file number (Protected PII) is not permitted to be listed in the subject portion of the e-mail (can only list one or the other).

 

(b)  E-mails between DEEOIC employees and parties outside of the ESA network (e.g., RCs, corporate verifiers, NIOSH, DOE) are not secured.  As a result, DEEOIC staff are not permitted to disclose any Protected PII in any part of the e-mail message and the attachments must be password protected or encrypted.  Therefore an e-mail message can contain the last name and last four digits of an individual’s SSN in the text of the message, as long as the remainder of the SSN, full name, or other PII is not listed anywhere in the e-mail message.  As such, DEEOIC staff must either fax or mail development letters to corporate verifiers.

 

(c)  DEEOIC staff are permitted to receive e-mails that contain PII in the message from a party outside of the ESA network.  Case specific e-mails received from an outside party containing Protected PII are printed and placed in the case file.  However, DEEOIC staff must not confirm the existence of cases for specific claimants to members of the public who are not a party to the cases.  DEEOIC staff are only permitted to reply with an acknowledgement e-mail, removing any personal identifiers from the sender’s message and also advising the sender (e.g., claimants, physicians, Congressional Offices) that DEEOIC does not conduct claims communication over e-mail, but by telephone or letter instead, as the e-mail cannot be considered secured. 

 

In addition, DEEOIC staff remove Protected PII in e-mail message chains and attachments prior to forwarding them outside of the ESA network.  However, if it is not possible to alter or redact the document or e-mail, or if it is necessary that the attachment or e-mail includes both the claimant’s name and file number or SSN, then the DEEOIC staff member faxes or sends the document via mail or courier to the appropriate party.  Packages containing extracts of multiple Protected PII records (e.g. to CPWR, DOE, RCs) sent via courier need to be tracked (e.g., by Registered Mail, Return Receipt, Fed Ex).

 

(d)  E-mail messages with the BPA concerning claimants are to only include the claimant’s CBP Member ID (from the CBP claimant eligibility file).  Claimant names are not included in the e-mail message, unless they are provided in an encrypted attachment.

 

f.   Handling the Signed Written Request for Copy of Case.  Upon receiving a signed written request from a claimant or authorized representative for a copy of the case file, the assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative takes the following actions for the release of records in a paper format:

 

(1)  Completes the Data Release Form (See Exhibit 2) by listing the employee’s name, file number, name of the assigned CE, date of the request to copy the file, name of the requestor for the file copy, and to whom the file copy is to be sent to;

 

(2)  Copies the case file and reviews each page of the copied documents for any PII that does not belong to the requestor;

 

(3)  Redacts any PII found, not belonging to the requestor, to thoroughly conceal the PII.  Once completed, the assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative lists his or her name as the Initial Reviewer, the date in which the Initial Review was completed, and signs his or her name with the date at the bottom of the form;

 

(4)  Copies the redacted documentation and combines that with the remainder of the copied documentation that did not require redaction;

 

(5)  Forwards the photocopies, the case file, and the signed Data Release Form to his or her Senior CE, Supervisory CE, or FAB Hearing Representative (the Final Reviewer) to ensure the documents are appropriately redacted; and 

 

(6)  Mails the documentation to the requestor, once the second level of verification has been completed with the Final Reviewer listing his or her name, signing, and dating the Data Release Form.  The original copy of the Data Release Form is filed down on the spindle in the original case file.

 

g.              Protected PII and Portable Media

 

(1)  DEEOIC staff only store Protected PII on portable media when absolutely necessary, as determined by DEEOIC.  Protected PII on portable media devices including laptops issued by DOL must be protected with encryption.  All removable storage media, such as flash drives, CDs, DVDs, writable optical media, and external hard drives that store Protected PII, must be encrypted. 

 

All reasonable measures are 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 in active use.

 

(a)  DOE and NIOSH submit CDs containing claimant PII to DEEOIC in accordance with DOE and HHS policies.  Both DOE and NIOSH have assured DEEOIC that these policies address the sensitivity of the materials, and provide adequate protection of claimant PII.

 

(2)  Delivery of portable media containing Protected PII including CDs, DVDs, or other writable media is done through the USPS or another DOL authorized delivery service with the ability to track pickup, receipt, transfer, and delivery.  The portable media needs to 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 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.  Documents and electronic media containing PII are not discarded in wastebaskets, but instead discarded in recycle bins picked up for shredding or burning. 

 

i.   Improper Release of Protected PII.  If Protected PII is improperly released as a result of the inadvertent mailing of a case record copy to an incorrect individual or the documentation sent to the correct individual contains Protected PII of another person that was not redacted, a DEEOIC staff member must take the following actions:

 

(1)  Contacts 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 Office;

 

(2)  Immediately notifies his or her management who in turn notifies the Regional Director, who complies with established Departmental reporting requirements documenting the type of PII disclosure, the circumstances surrounding the disclosure and how it was discovered, the appropriate actions taken to recover the PII document in question, and the disposition of the recovery effort; and

 

(3)  Tracks 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 his or her management, through the Regional Director, to the NO who provides guidance on determining what actions need to be taken.

 

10.  Outgoing MailOutgoing 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.   Heavy Envelopes and Packages.  Such parcels are securely wrapped with heavy-duty plastic tape.  Likewise, boxes of case files are packed securely.

 

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

 

d.   Registered and Certified Mail.  These types of mail are processed according to USPS regulations and specific procedures established in each DO, FAB, and in NO.

 

e.   Overnight Express Mail.  The services of the designated contractor are used at the discretion of the DO, FAB, or NO. 

 

11.  Returned Mail.  At any point during the processing of a claim, there are instances when a DEEOIC Office mails correspondence to the claimant or authorized representative and it gets returned to the DEEOIC Office by the USPS.  The effective handling of claims depends heavily on ensuring that the claimant and authorized representative receive the correspondence sent by a DEEOIC Office.  Therefore it is important that a DEEOIC Office has the claimant’s and authorized representative’s current mailing address and phone number(s) and if not, then to make sufficient attempts to find/obtain that information, prior to administratively closing the claim.  The returned mail is filed down on the spindle and retained in the case file.

 

     a.   Inaccurate Mailing Address.  On occasion, printing errors occur in which the claimant’s or authorized representative’s mailing address on correspondence contains a typo, is transposed, or is incomplete.  When this occurs, the USPS returns the correspondence as returned mail.  The assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative reviews the mailing address on the correspondence and compares it to the mailing address on the claim form, ECMS and/or signed authorized representative letter to determine if a typo (e.g., NY vs. NM) or transposition (e.g., 3210 vs. 3201) was made, or part of the address was missing (e.g., left out the ZIP code).  If this is the case, then the assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative resends the correspondence with a corrected version of the mailing address and updated/current date.  In addition, since the returned mail was as a result of a DEEOIC Office’s action, the “Claim Status Dt” (of that specific claim status code) is updated under the “Claim Status History” section in the “Claim Update” screen of ECMS with the date of the resent correspondence.

 

     b.   Mailing Address Not Fully Visible in Window Envelop.  The USPS returns mail when the mailing address is not fully visible in the window envelope.  In this instance the assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative either resends the correspondence (with an updated/current date) in another window envelope ensuring that the correspondence is folded in such a way that the mailing address is fully visible or encloses the correspondence in an envelope with the address printed on the outside.  The assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative must also ensure that the mailing address is correct and error free prior to resending the correspondence.  In addition, since the returned mail was as a result of a DEEOIC Office’s action, the “Claim Status Dt” (of that specific claim status code) is updated under the “Claim Status History” section in the “Claim Update” screen of ECMS with the date of the resent correspondence.

 

     c.   Forwarding Address.  Sometimes claimants or authorized representatives notify the USPS but not a DEEOIC Office of a temporary or permanent change of address.  When this happens and a DEEOIC Office receives returned mail, the USPS affixes a label on the returned mail/envelop with the forwarding address.  The assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative resends the correspondence to the forwarding address and encloses a request letter to the claimant or authorized representative requesting a signed letter providing his or her current mailing address and phone number(s), which is updated in ECMS and in the case file (See EEOICPA PM 1-0400).  Since the returned mail was not as a result of a DEEOIC Office’s action, the date of the correspondence and claim status code in ECMS does not change (does not get updated in ECMS with the current date).

 

     d.   Unknown Address.  When mail is returned, without a forwarding address provided by the USPS, printing error, or not being fully visible in a window envelope, the assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative takes the following actions to determine the mailing address for the claimant or authorized representative:

 

          (1)  Check the Social Security Death Index Interactive Search website at http://ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/ssdi.cgi to determine if the claimant or authorized representative is deceased or not.  A print out of the search is made and filed down on the spindle in the case file;

 

          (2)  Call the claimant or the authorized representative, explain the situation about the returned mail, request the current mailing address over the phone, and advise that he or she must provide a signed letter with the updated address.  The assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative follows up the phone call with a written letter memorializing the phone conversation and requesting a signed letter with the updated address to be submitted to the DEEOIC Office. 

 

          When the case file contains multiple claimants, the assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative contacts the other claimant(s) to see if they have any contact information on the claimant or authorized representative;

 

          (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;

 

          (5)  Send a letter to the USPS Postmaster to inquire about the current mailing address for the claimant or authorized representative.  The letter includes the name (non-sensitive PII) and last known address of the claimant or authorized representative (not considered as Protected PII because evidence in the file, via the returned mail, shows that the address is no longer linked to his or her identity)(See paragraph 9 above).  

 

          The letter is addressed to the Postmaster at the city, state, and five digit ZIP code of the claimant’s or authorized representative’s last known address.  After the five digit ZIP code, a dash is followed by “9998”.  This alerts the Postmaster to determine the local post office that last provided mail delivery service to the claimant or authorized representative. 

 

          The assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative provides his or her name, phone number, fax number, and mailing address in the letter for the USPS Postmaster to contact with the response (See Exhibit 3 for a sample letter).  For contact information (e.g., phone number, fax number) on the claimant’s or authorized representative’s local post office(s), the assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative goes to the website at http://www.usps.com/ and picks the option “Locate a Post Office”.

 

     e.   Administrative Closure of Claim.  Once the assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative has exhausted all efforts and is unable to obtain the current mailing address for the claimant or authorized representative, the claim is in a posture for an administrative closure.  The assigned CE, CE2, FAB Representative, or NO Representative prepares a memorandum, for his or her Supervisory CE’s or Manager’s review and signature, stating how the claim is being administratively closed because of returned mail and outlining the actions/attempts taken to obtain the current mailing address.  The signed memorandum is filed down on the spindle and retained in the case file.  The Supervisory CE or Manager enters “C2-Admin Closure” under the “Claim Status History” section in the “Claim Update” screen of ECMS.  The “Claim Status Dt” is the date of the signed memorandum.

 

 

Exhibit 1: FOIA Process Flow

Exhibit 2: Data Release Form

Exhibit 3: USPS Postmaster Address Request Letter