ANWAG Public Comments on Rules Changes
Congress calls for Transparency and Independence in the EEOICPA Advisory Board on Toxic Substance and Worker Health
The advocates have long anticipated the creation of an advisory board to the Department of Labor. Legislation was passed in December to establish the Advisory Board on Toxic Substances and Worker Health. ANWAG sent a letter to Mr. Leonard Howie, Director of the Office of Worker Compensation Programs requesting an update on the board. Legislative offices were copied on this letter. On April 24th Congressional members sent a letter to President Obama to ensure that "worker health and advocate organizations with expertise on this issue" are consulted on the make-up of the Board and that Obama's Administration "ensure the Board is transparent and independent from the Department of Labor".
ANWAG, DIAB, and EECAP are deeply thankful for the continued support of these Congressional members.
ANWAG Commends Bi-Partisan Congressional Action To
Department of Labor Advisory Oversight Board
On December 5, 2014 ANWAG and the DEEOIC Interim Advisory Board (DIAB) announced the formation of an independent advisory board.
ANWAG requests Help from Secretary Perez
On September 8, 2014 ANWAG sent a letter to Secretary Perez requesting his help with obtaining information needed to assist EEOICPA claimants and monitor the administration of DEEOIC.
On September 23, 2014 the United Steelworkers wrote Secretary Perez to support of DEEOIC releasing the requested material to ANWAG and request that the DOL inspector general look into the possible overcharging of taxpayers.
DEEOIC requests $3,403.50 to provide ANWAG with Information to help Claimants
On August 26, 2014 DEEOIC replied to ANWAG's request for "Copies of all documents the US Department of Energy (DOE) supplied to Department of Labor's (DOL) Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation (DEEOIC) and/or its Site Exposure Matrix (SEM) Administrator, Paragon Technical Industry, that provided detailed description for use in SEM of job responsibilities for guards, police, security or any other similar labor categories which provided security to the DOE facilities and/or the safeguarding of the materials and processes used to make the nuclear weapons." DEEOIC denied the fee waiver request made by ANWAG based on an old appeal of a request for a fee waiver.
ANWAG requests Administrative ReviewTwo Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) petitioners contacted ANWAG about the length of time it is taking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to conduct an Administrative Review of the denial to include those sites in the SEC. ANWAG sent this letter to Secretary Burwell and looks forward to her response.
ANWAG featured at the Rocky Flats 25th Anniversary of the Rocky Flats FBI Raid
ANWAG meets with Department of Labor, Department of Energy and NIOSH
Representatives from the Departments of Labor, Energy and Health and Human Services accepted ANWAG's invitation to meet to discuss the advocates concerns with EEOICPA. We met in Denver on February 20, 2014. ANWAG provided a summary of the items covered at the meeting.
New Problems surface in DEEOIC's Site Exposure Matrix (SEM)
DEEOIC has revised the SEM and has removed useful information. It has also come to ANWAG's attention that DEEOIC has a more extensive version of the SEM which Claims Examiners use rather than the public SEM which is available to everyone else. This begs the question, Why did DEEOIC spend over one million dollars having the public SEM evaluated rather than the in-house SEM they use to administer the claims. On August 22, 2013 ANWAG sent a letter to Director Leiton raising this and other questions. DOL responded to ANWAG on September 12, 2013.
DEEOIC's Policy Teleconference Notes/Memos
Have you had a claim denied based on a DEEOIC memo? Turns out that they are not meant to be used to deny claims as they are pre-decisional documents. Director Leiton explained that the reason DEEOIC will not release these memos to advocates is because disclosure "would have a "chilling effect" upon DEEOIC's internal deliberative process and would lead to premature disclosure of policy discussions which may or may not ever be finalized and issued as part of official statements of policy in the EEOICPA Procedure Manual." Donna Hand of Help by Hand has generously shared this letter along with a waiver for claimants to use it if their claim has been denied based on one of these memos.
However, DEEOIC has previously released teleconference notes through the FOIA process. It is not clear how releasing these teleconference notes did not have the same "chilling effect". This seems to shed doubt on DEEOIC's claim that it would be detrimental to release the information.
Classification of EEOICPA Facilities
EEOICPA involves many issues that affect claims decisions. One such issue that ANWAG has followed for many years is how DEEOIC decides that a facility is a DOE facility under the law. ANWAG has been discussing this issue with DEEOIC for a number of months. Here is our latest letter and supporting documents. We will keep you updated on DEEOIC's response.
Some of the evidence backing up ANWAG's recommendations for reclassification are listed below:
NEW Institute of Medicine Report
DOL contracted with the Institute of Medicine to, "provide a scientific assessment to identify strengths and weaknesses of the SEM and make recommendations for addressing links to chemical usage/exposure" on September 27, 2011. The IOM Review was released to the public in March 27, 2013. Many of the issues raised in the IOM report have previously been raised by ANWAG multiple times including a July 16, 2009 tele-meeting, as well as in the March 22, 2010 Government Accountability Office report entitled, "Additional Independent Oversight and Transparency Would Improve Program's Credibility".
On April 12, 2013 ANWAG released the "Analysis of the Institute of Medicine's Review of Department of Labor's Site Exposure Matrix and Department of Labor's Response to the Recommendations".
ANWAG alerts Department of HHS Inspector General of possible Malfeasance
ANWAG learned from emails received through the Freedom of Information Act that some NIOSH staff members may have withheld evidence from the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health. The information reveled in these emails may have caused Special Exposure Cohorts to be decided improperly. On February 28, 2013 ANWAG alerted the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General's office and the Advisory Board president of this matter.
Due Process denied Injured Nuclear Workers
ANWAG issued a press release after leaning learned this week that DEEOIC will be reviewing EEOICPA claims to look for residual contamination at certain Atomic Weapons Employer (AWE) sites but will NOT notify claimants that their claims are being reviewed. ANWAG feels that this deprives claimants of the ability to provide DEEOIC with additional information since there will be no way for them to know DEEOIC has reviewed their file.
DOL's criteria for Chronic Beryllium disease
On March 9, 2012 ANWAG sent DOL a letter about a possible change in the criteria DOL is using to decide Chronic Beryllium Disease claims. CBD is defined in the law and the law does not require a diagnosis of CBD. It appeared that DOL may have been requiring a diagnosis of CBD to train their Claims Examiners rather than using the criteria established in the law. On July 24, 2012 DOL responded.
National Day of Remembrance
Senator Mark Udall introduced Senate Resolution 519, designating October 30 as a National Day of Remembrance for the nuclear weapons workers. He was joined by Senators Alexander, Bingaman, Brown (OH), Cantwell, Corker, Crapo, Gillibrand, Graham, McConnell, Reid, and Udall (NM), who co-sponsored the resolution. A note of thanks to the Senators would be appropriate. If your Senator has not co-signed the legislation, please ask that he or she supports it. Many thanks to Cold War Patriots for continuing to bring this issue to Congress. Stay tuned for the events planned for this year's celebrations.
On March 20, 2012 ANWAG sent a letter to DOL requesting clarification on some of the responses DOL made to National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Committee to Review the Department of Labor’s Site Exposure Matrix (SEM). DOL provided clarifications in a letter dated May 21, 2012.
On January 23, 2012 the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine held their first meeting to review DEEIOIC's Site Exposure Matrix. Terrie Barrie was invited by them to present the advocates' position on the issues surrounding the SEM and claim adjudication. Ms. Barrie both spoke to the committee and provided them with printed material. Dr. Laurence Fuortes from the University of Iowa College of Public Health also provided the committee with his observations on SEM and HazMap.
On January 5, 2011 ANWAG issued a press release alleging that DOL has found a way around President Obama’s memorandum on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and is effectively denying advocates for sickened nuclear weapons workers requests for documents by charging outlandish search fees.
Because there has been no progress with any meaningful reforms to EEOICPA this year, ANWAG developed a thought provoking essay describing some of the serious flaws with the program.
Terrie Barrie: "More must be done" was published in the Craig Daily Press on December 28, 2011.
ANWAG is concerned about possible conflict of interest problems within EEOICPA. To begin to address these problems ANWAG wrote a letter to Dr. Howard of NIOSH regarding a possible conflict of interest rising from the Designated Federal Official (DFO) for the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health who authored the final rules for the dose reconstruction and Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) petition processes.
ANWAG also sent a letter to Director Hinnefeld of NIOSH regarding possible conflicts of interest between contractors Dade Moeller and Associates and EG&G for their financial involvements with EEOICPA and DOE sites.
NIOSH responded to this concern on January 3, 2012.
Program wide Issues
There has been some confusion within EEOICPA on whether certain x-ray reports are valid of not. Some claimants have had their "b-reads" refused if the technician did not sign the report. NIOSH's Dr. Howard clarified the issue for ANWAG. If you have had this problem, please contact ANWAG or EECAP for help.
ANWAG has put together a report on the problems claimants are having with Department of Labor and NIOSH as well as solutions to those problems.