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U.S. Senators Urge DOL To Delay New EEOICPA Rules

April 20, 2016

April 20, 2016

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News & Events

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander, R-TN and Tom Udall, D-NM, have urged the Department of Labor (DOL) to delay at least 72 new provisions that will make it more difficult for nuclear workers to get the benefits they deserve under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA).

In a letter sent to the DOL, Senators Alexander and Udall asked for the consideration of findings from a March 2016 Government Accountability Office report. They also asked that the new rule adoption should wait for input from the new Advisory Board on Toxic Substances and Worker Health. The board was seated at the beginning of April and will have their first meeting April 26-28, 2016 in Washington, D.C.

Below is the full text from the letter written to the DOL by Senators Alexander and Udall.

The Honorable Thomas Perez   Secretary                                 

U.S. Department of Labor

200 Constitution Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20210

Dear Secretary Perez:

We write to express strong concerns about the proposed rule regarding changes to the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOCIPA) published on November 18, 2015 (RIN 1240-AA08). We request that you delay implementation of the proposed rule until DOL has incorporated the findings of the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) report on Energy Employees Compensation (GAO-16-74) and the Advisory Board on Toxic Substance and Worker Health (Advisory Board) is operational.

DOL has proposed changes to at least 72 provisions of EEOICPA, some of which could adversely impact claims adjudication. It was premature to propose such changes before the GAO report on improving the program was released before the public had a chance to review the results of that report and before the Advisory Board was selected and seated.  It is important that the new Advisory Board be in place and has ample opportunity to review and consult on the proposed changes before the rule is finalized.

The men and women who were exposed to radiation and toxic substances at our nation’s nuclear facilities deserve to have their claims evaluated in a fair and equitable manner.  DOL’s proposed rule change may increase the burden on claimants with little or no explanation.  While some changes memorialize existing practice, others have raised concerns, including modifying a claimants’ ability to change their treating physician which arguably provides DOL more discretion to exclude providers, but also takes away the right of a patient to be seen by doctor of their choice. Under the proposed rule, qualified claimants also risk losing coverage if they are too sick to travel for second medical opinions or represent themselves at administrative hearings. Such a requirement increases the burden on those least able to care for themselves.