ANWAG Requests DOL take Necessary Steps to protect Sick Workers

Seven days ago, the Alliance of Nuclear Worker Advocacy Groups (ANWAG) sent this letter to the Department of Labor (DOL) requesting that the Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation (DEEOIC) allow some workers to receive more than a 30 day supply of covered prescription medications.

 Since Janet Michel or I have received an acknowledgement of the letter, I emailed the Director of DEEOIC yesterday afternoon, requesting an update.

 3/16/2020

 I do hope all is well with you. I've had a couple of people ask about the emergency circular ANWAG requested last week. Could you give me an update on the status of this request?

 Also, one AR suggested today that certain consequential disease claims could be expedited. For instance there was a claimant who had a transplant of the body organ covered by DEEOIC. The anti-rejection medications are not yet approved and the out-of-pocket expense is very high.

Another individual contacted me later and made another suggestion. I submitted that via email this morning but also copying the Director of OWCP, the Ombudsman, the Chair of the Advisory Board and the Deputy DEEOIC Director.

 3/17/2020

 I can only imagine how busy you are, but I want to bring another issue to your attention for your consideration.

It was suggested special consideration be given during this national emergency would be a good idea to either extend the authorization period for home health care, therapies and durable medical equipment or at least waive the face-to-face physician visit if the physician provides a prescription.

It is dangerous to have a chronically ill and high-risk patient going to the physician’s office during this time. Something like this would reduce the risk to the patient and reduce the burden on an already strained health care system. Taking this action through at least August 1st makes sense because the work to get a patient authorized or reauthorized starts about 45-60 days before the actual authorization date.

I would be happy to speak with you to discuss this and other issues if that would be more expedient.

This is not a time to by super-critical of an agency who is responsible to provide the care to the Department of Energy nuclear weapons workers who sacrificed their health to protect our country.  Nonetheless, I'm disappointed that DEEOIC has not acknowledged the requests.   Their silence is disconcerting.

 Normally, when ANWAG sends a letter we receive a reply around thirty days later via U.S. Mail which adds days to receiving the response.  But this isn’t a normal situation.  Lives, literally, depend on swift action DEEOIC to assure that their claimants receive the necessary equipment and medical attention without placing them in further jeopardy.

 Apparently, emergency changes to policies can be issued.  In a December 30, 2019 letter to the Chair of the Advisory Board on Toxic Substances and Worker Health, DOL Deputy Director stated that the reason DEEOIC will only provide changes to the Board a mere ten days before publication is that, “…it is imperative that new procedures be put in place as quickly as possible…”

 If ever there was a time to implement new procedures quickly it is now.  ANWAG does understand there are levels of the internal processes to review the policy changes, but they should be expedited. 

 ANWAG urges DEEOIC to break the silence and immediately let the covered workers know how they plan to ease some restrictions during this national health emergency.  Transparency will alleviate some of the worry these workers are experiencing.