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Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation (DEEOIC)

Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Officials Participate in Roundtable Meeting in Shiprock, New Mexico

On December 3, 2008, officials from the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation (DEEOIC) participated in a roundtable meeting hosted by the Office of Navajo Uranium Workers in Shiprock, New Mexico. The purpose of this roundtable meeting was to discuss ways the Department can better communicate with Navajo claimants who file claims under Parts B and E of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA or Act). Also in attendance at the roundtable meeting were Navajo traditional healers, and representatives from the Navajo Nation’s Office of Vital Records, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Radiation Exposure Compensation Program, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program, and the Ombudsman for the EEOICPA.

Discussion at the roundtable meeting focused on several different areas, including how Navajo medical customs might be used to support a claim under the Act, the “at least as likely as not” standard for causation under the EEOICPA, and how written communication between DOL and Navajo-speaking claimants can be improved. For example, the Office of Navajo Uranium Workers explained that most Navajo-speaking claimants refer to uranium only as “yellowcake.” Other communication barriers between Navajo claimants and EEOICPA requirements were also discussed, and in response to these concerns, DOL will work to better tailor its written communications to meet the needs of the Navajo community.

It is the Department’s goal to be accessible to the Navajo claimant community. The roundtable meeting was extremely productive, as DOL officials gained further knowledge concerning Navajo linguistic and cultural issues which can have an impact on claims processing. By participating in this open dialogue, the Department hopes to strengthen its relationship with the Navajo Nation and provide better service to Navajo claimants.

Navajo-speaking individuals in need of claim status updates, clarification regarding written correspondences, or claims filing assistance are encouraged to contact the Espanola Resource Center. The Espanola Resource Center employs staff members who are fluent in the Navajo language and who can assist the Navajo-speaking community with their claims under the Act.

In April and October 2008, DOL sponsored town hall meetings in Kayenta and Tuba City, Arizona, and Farmington, New Mexico. In response to the large attendance at these town hall meetings, DOL sponsors monthly Traveling Resource Centers in Shiprock, New Mexico, and Kayenta, Arizona, to provide in-person assistance to Navajo and other claimants.

Under Part B of the Act, a uranium miner, uranium miller, or ore transporter, must have received a $100,000 award under Section 5 of RECA, administered by DOJ, to be eligible for an additional lump sum compensation award of $50,000 and medical benefits for the same illness. Those individuals who receive such a supplemental payment under Part B may also be eligible for benefits under Part E of the Act.

Further, some uranium workers who did not receive a $100,000 award under Section 5 of RECA may be eligible for benefits under Part E of the Act. Part E considers the effect that exposure to a toxic substance at a covered Section 5 facility had in causing, contributing to, or aggravating the illness and/or death of a covered employee. Uranium workers who developed an illness as a result of exposure to a toxic substance while working at a covered Section 5 uranium mine, uranium mill, or ore buying station anytime during the period January 1, 1942 through December 31, 1971, are encouraged to apply for benefits under Part E.

The DEEOIC Denver District Office will assist former uranium workers and their survivors in developing employment, exposure, and medical evidence in support of their Part E claims. Among its array of tools, the district office utilizes a database known as the Site Exposure Matrices (SEM) that provides toxic exposure data for biological and chemical substances at Section 5 facilities and information regarding the types of illnesses associated with exposure to particular substances. The public SEM database is available for viewing and comment to interested parties online at www.sem.dol.gov. The DEEOIC also employs a national network of qualified District Medical Consultants to assist in the evaluation of medical records.

For additional information regarding the EEOICPA, the monthly Traveling Resource Centers in Shiprock, New Mexico, and Kayenta, Arizona, or to schedule an appointment for claim-filing assistance, please contact the Espanola Resource Center at (866) 272-3622.