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Talk to Terrie: Department of Labor Releases EEOICP Ombudsman’s Report to Congress

November 5, 2018

November 5, 2018

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Recently, the Department of Labor (DOL) released the Ombudsman for the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP) 2016 report to Congress, https://bit.ly/2zm0DLZ.  The law requires the Ombudsman to advise Congress on the number and nature of the complaints his office receives each year.

I have found these reports to be very informative.  Not only are the types of complaints listed but the Ombudsman offers suggestion how to correct the problems.  This blog highlights some of the issues. I recommend reading the report to learn more details of the complaints.

Many of the complaints have been documented in previous reports.  One complaint that the Ombudsman receives concern the language of the law itself.  There is nothing that the Ombudsman or DOL can do about those complaints.  All changes to the law must be done by Congress.

It is unfortunate that the following issues continue to be brought to the Ombudsman’s attention:

  • Awareness of the Program
  • Knowing about and utilizing helpful tools
  • Development of Evidence
  • Home health care and medical billing issues
  • Customer Service
  • Weighing of Evidence and due process

EEOICPA has been the law for over 17 years.  I am always amazed to learn that someone has not heard of the program until recently.  The report explains that despite DOL’s outreach efforts it comes as a shock to some people that this program exists.  One explanation the report offers is that the local news media does not always pick up DOL’s press release of the meetings.

There are still concerns with the difficulty with some claimants having their medical bills and home health care and other medical necessities approved in a timely manner.

There continues to be complaints about rudeness by some DOL employees.  I want to emphasize the word “some”.  DOL provides two ways to report unprofessional conduct.  One is by email, [email protected].  Some claimants feel that reporting this behavior to DOL will jeopardize their claim.

I lumped the remaining issues together.  All involve knowing the program and what is required by the claimant.  The report noted that claimants are not only dealing with the claims’ process but are also dealing with ill health.

DOL does provide tools to assist claimants.  A list of the tools can be found on page 72 of the report.  Something in the report never occurred to me – having a link to a website may be meaningless to some.  They also need to know how to navigate it.  Starting in December, Deb Jerison and I will be providing step-by-step instructions on the more challenging links.

Other notable discussions in the report are recommendations from the Advisory Board on Toxic Substances and Worker Health (pages 34, 36, 48, 62 and 80) and the federal court decision in Lucero v. United States Department of Labor (pages 63-64).

Cold War Patriots is always here to help the claimants and you can reach out to me, Deb Jerison or our Help Center for assistance (1-888-387-2123.).  Sometimes our ability to assist is limited.  Registering a complaint with the Ombudsman’s office may be the best option.