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Talk to Terrie: Legislation introduced to streamline claims

March 25, 2021

March 25, 2021

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CWP Blog

March 25, 2021

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Joe Manchin (DWV) and Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced the Toxic Substance Safety Act of 2021 on March 25, 2021.  If passed, this legislation will reduce the burden of proof for many claimants and streamline the claims’ process.

This is such an important reform.  The legislation allows for the scientific community to recommend classes of workers who should be presumed to have developed an illness as a result from exposure to toxic substances.  This will be accomplished by removing the responsibility of determining causation from the Department of Labor (DOL) and place it under the realm of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

And there are time limits!  After conferring with the Advisory Board on Toxic Substances and Worker Health, HHS must provide a report to Congress within 180 days that identifies,

  • “(A) A list of cancers and other illnesses associated with toxic substances that pose, or posed, a hazard in the work environment at any Department of Energy facility.
  • “(B) The minimum duration of work required to qualify for the Toxic Special Exposure Cohort established under subsection (a)(1).
  • “(C) The class of employees that are designated as members in the Toxic Special Exposure Cohort.

The legislation also provides for increased epidemiological studies on the health effects of exposure to toxic substances on the workers employed at Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons facilities. This research could result in adding additional members to the Toxic Special Exposure Cohort.

Another important reform is that DOE direct employees who worked at DOE nuclear weapons facilities and workers who were employed at Atomic Weapons Employers sites are now eligible to files claims under Part E of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program.

The last reform I want to mention is that, if a claimant decides to file in federal court because of a denied claim, they have 180 days to do so instead of the current 60-day deadline to file.  This will allow a claimant ample time to retain legal counsel and for those attorneys to identify the areas where the Department of Labor possibly rendered a decision in and arbitrary manner.

Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Senator Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) have co-sponsored the bill.

“Cold War Patriots applauds the ongoing efforts of Senator Murray, Senator Manchin, and Congressman Smith to create and pass much needed legislation to streamline the claims process for toxic illnesses and expand program coverage to those workers previously overlooked.” Tim Lerew, Spokesperson, Cold War Patriots.