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Metal Trades Dept. Calls for Oversight Hearings Into Operations of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP)
Date:4/28/2008

missions; hiring merely one part-time physician on staff and 100 contract physicians to review cases-- when it needed a minimum of 500; developing a helter-skelter system for reviewing and processing claims; hiring an unqualified contractor under a no-bid contract to set up its electronic data system; dismissing its advisory committee of workers' compensation experts after the committee criticized DOE's operations; and overspending on administrative costs fourfold.

The operations of other agencies with responsibilities under the act as amended to repair DOE's failure in 2004 were not much better. NIOSH was assigned to assess radiation exposure claims. It has only recently begun to update biomedical data originally developed from studies of veterans exposed to radiation during atomic tests in the 1940s and 50s and cancer-related deaths among Japanese survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even

the DOL was appalled by the work NIOSH was doing in processing EEOICP claims, sending some two-thirds of the claims NIOSH processed back for re-work. An audit of NIOSH processes found some 14.5 percent of claims it handled were erroneously rejected.

The union found many survivors who have applied for benefits have been told that they must produce medical and other records in order to prevail--records from 20 to 30 years ago. Virtually all workers involved with nuclear weapons research and development were sworn to secrecy about their work--forbidden to discuss it with spouses or family members. Consequently, many legitimate survivor claimants may not even know they are eligible, the union said.

Responsibility for administering benefits for former nuclear weapons workers originally had been split between the Department of Energy and the Department of Labor, with DOE assuming responsibility for "toxic illnesses" and DOL handling conditions specifically related to exposure from beryllium, silicosis and radiation. In 2004, the amended act gave NI
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SOURCE Metal Trades Department AFL-CIO
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