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Legislation Introduced to Improve the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program

August 3, 2020

August 3, 2020

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Three separate pieces of legislation were introduced last week which, if passed, will improve the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP).

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA), Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced The Toxic Exposure Safety Act of 2020.  This legislation would expand the coverage under Part E of EEOICP.

According to the press release:

  • The first part establishes a Special Exposure Cohort for a list of diseases that, according to medical experts, should be included with current information on causality to exposure and resulting diseases. This includes all forms of cancer and asbestos-related diseases.
  • The second part of the bill initiates a five-year funding program that would instruct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to select grantees to conduct epidemiological and health studies programs. Eligible entities include any institution of higher education or the National Academy of Sciences. The program is authorized to award $3,000,000 for each of the five years.
  • The final portion of the bill directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to review and summarize scientific and medical evidence concerning the association between exposures to toxic substances found at DOE sites. The National Academy of Sciences will issue reports to include additional diseases if evidence indicates a need for inclusion in the cohort. Additionally, the Academy will make a recommendation to Congress if it believes there is a need for additional studies to resolve areas of continuing scientific uncertainty. The duration of this program is ten years.

Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) introduced two amendments to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) appropriations bill.

The first is a provision providing additional funding for the Advisory Board on Toxic Substances and Worker Health to hire a contractor to provide technical assistance as it fulfills its statutory responsibility to conduct oversight of DOL.  DOL informed the Board in April that it would be unlikely that they would be able to get the funding in place for the 2021 fiscal year.  However, Congressman Perlmutter was able to submit an amendment that provides the funding.

The second provision provides continued funding for DOL’s Office of the Ombudsman which helps former nuclear weapons workers navigate the complex claims process.  The Ombudsman’s office sunsets on October 30, 2020.  Earlier in July, Congressman Perlmutter submitted a “Sense of Congress” amendment to the House National Defense Authorization Act recommending that DOL keep this office open past the sunset date.  This funding will allow this office to continue its important work.