[Excerpt] Public Law 108-375 which was enacted by Congress in 2004 also created an Office of the Ombudsman (the Office). Pursuant to this law, the Secretary of Labor was urged to take appropriate action to ensure the independence of the Office within the Department of Labor, including independence from the other officers and employees of the Department of Labor engaged in activities related to the administration of the provision of the EEOICPA. See 42 U.S.C. § 7385s-15(d). The Secretary of Labor appointed the first Ombudsman in February 2005, and the Office submitted its first report to Congress covering calendar year 2005 on February 15, 2006.
When created in 2004, the Office was scheduled to sunset on October 28, 2007. However, in January 2007, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 extending the Office until October 28, 2012. Moreover, while the Office initially only had authority with respect to claims filed under Part E of the EEOICPA, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 expanded the authority of the Office to include Part B of the EEOICPA.
The statute outlines three duties for the Office:
- To provide information on the benefits available under Part B and Part E and on the requirements and procedures applicable to the provision of such benefits;
- To make recommendations to the Secretary regarding the location of resource centers for the acceptance and development of claims for benefits under Part B and Part E; and
- To carry out such other duties as the Secretary shall specify.
See 42 U.S.C. § 7385s-15(c).
In addition to these specified duties, the statute also provides that the Office is to submit an annual report to Congress setting forth:
a) The number and types of complaints, grievances, and requests for assistance received by the Office during the preceding year, and
b) An assessment of the most common difficulties encountered by claimants and potential claimants during the preceding year.