WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray urged the Department of Labor and Department of Energy to fix inefficiencies slowing down claims processing for former and current Energy workers and contractors whose health has been adversely affected on the jobsite. In a letter to the secretaries of both departments, the Senators cited recommendations from a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on improving the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP). The Senators say GAO’s recommendations should be implemented as ‘quickly as practicable’ to ensure Energy workers like those at Hanford have their claims processed without unnecessary delay.
“We have many constituents who worked at Hanford during the cold war and still live in the Tri-Cities area,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. “These constituents have raised concerns regarding delays in resolving claims. …The recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released in March identified areas in the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP) that still need improvement and making recommendations on how to solve or minimize problems. We are writing to urge the Department of Labor and Department of Energy to implement recommendations made by GAO in its report on EEOICP as quickly as practicable.”
The problems identified in the GAO report as contributing to compensation delays include: restrictions on Department of Energy site information; incomplete or nonexistent records relating to employment and health; problems with the process to determine the level of one’s exposure, known as dose reconstruction; and new scientific information linking the exposure to cancer, which causes the reconstruction process to take longer.
Though DOL and DOE stated in March they would begin to implement many of GAO’s recommendations, some of them have not been fully addressed or implemented, and the concerns of many former Hanford workers, or other Energy employees living in Washington state, have not been fully addressed. Since the average length of time to process a claim takes between one and three years, one of the biggest concerns of Hanford workers is fully understanding upfront the requirements to qualify, rather than investing months and even years of time and resources to ultimately be denied. The GAO report confirmed that enhanced oversight and transparency of EEOICP could improve the program’s credibility.