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Advisory Board on the Site Exposure Matrix – 3/21/17

March 23, 2017

March 23, 2017

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News & Events

The Advisory Board on Toxic Substances and Worker Health (ABTSWH) began 11 months ago and has been very aggressive in working to improve Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA). One of the duties of the (ABTSWH) is helping the Department of Labor (DOL) Division of Energy Employee Occupational Illness Compensation (DEEOIC) improve its Site Exposure Matrix (SEM). The ABTSWH Subcommittee on SEM met on March 21, 2017, to work on improving several aspects of SEM and claims adjudication.

One of the ways the subcommittee feels it can improve the claim process is to gather more information from each claimant using a revised Occupational Health Questionnaire (OHQ). The subcommittee discussed the importance of gathering more information on the OHQ about the tasks workers actually did at Department of Energy (DOE) facilities rather than relying mainly on job titles. They also discussed how the OHQ could be used to gather additional toxic exposure data on individual workers. The subcommittee hopes to have a recommendation ready to present on this at the April full board meeting in Richland, Washington (April 18-20, 2017).

The subcommittee also discussed how setting up a presumption of when an approval of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can be made, without further evaluation. A review was done of the current scientific literature, and it was determined that vapors, fumes, and gases are predictive of the development of COPD. The subcommittee discussed what exposures are linked to the causing, aggravating, or contributing to the development of COPD. They hope to have a recommendation on this ready to present at the April meeting, as well.

Next, the subcommittee discussed what to do about the discrepancy between claims from facilities that do and do not have a SEM. Several ideas were discussed on how to correct the inequity. One of the more interesting options was to implement a co-worker model, similar to what National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) does when it needs to assign a radiation dose to a worker where no monitoring exists.

In May 2016, Energy Employees Claimant Assistance Project (EECAP) did a review of the percentage of claims approved and paid for at Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP) facilities with and without SEM. This showed that claimants filing claims on sites without a SEM were at a distinct disadvantage.

% of Claims

approved WITH SEM

% of Claims


% of claims approved

with NO SEM

% of claims paid

with NO SEM

39% 27% 10% 20%

Several years ago, DEEOIC contracted with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to review the SEM and provide suggestions on how to improve it. The IOM report was released four years ago this month and contained a number of recommendations for improving EEOICPA that DOL has been unable to implement.

The subcommittee reviewed whether some of these recommendations came within the purview of this committee or were issues for the full board. Members determined that at least one area could be improved by board intervention.

They also discussed whether the board could hire a contractor with sufficient multi-disciplinary scientific expertise to review the SEM and help establish causation, aggravation, and contributing factors to illnesses caused by exposure to toxic agents at DOE facilities. Members felt this would make claim adjudication faster and easier for DEEOIC and fairer for claimants.

At the present time neither DEEOIC nor the board has the capacity to take on this task. The subcommittee will explore whether it is feasible to hire a contractor for this task.

For more information on the SEM and how it is involved in the EEOICPA process, please go to Cold War Patriots Site Exposure Matrix Webpage.