[Excerpt] The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) was passed by Congress in 2000, and amended in 2004, to compensate American workers who put their health on the line to help fight the Cold War. Many of these workers developed cancer and other serious diseases because, in the course of doing their jobs, they were exposed to radiation and other toxic substances. They and their families have paid dearly for their role in protecting our democracy; the purpose of this program is to acknowledge their sacrifice and to compensate them in some small way for their suffering and loss.
As originally enacted in 2000, EEOICPA included Part B (administered by the Department of Labor (DOL)) and Part D (administered by the Department of Energy (DOE)). When Congress repealed Part D and enacted Part E of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act in October 2004, effectively transferring responsibility for administration of contractor employee compensation from the DOE to the DOL, it also made provisions for creation of the Office of the Ombudsman for Part E. Congress directed that the Office of the Ombudsman be an independent office, located within the Department of Labor, and charged it with a three- fold mission:
- To conduct outreach to claimants and potential claimants;
- To make recommendations to the Secretary of Labor about where to locate resource centers for the acceptance and development of claims;
- To submit an Annual Report to Congress by February 15, setting forth the number and types of complaints, grievances and requests for assistance received by the Ombudsman, and an assessment of the most common difficulties encountered by claimants and potential claimants under Part E during the previous year.
See 42 U.S.C. § 7385s-15(e).
During 2006, the Office of the Ombudsman undertook outreach efforts to many claimants and potential claimants, principally focusing upon areas of the country to which we had not traveled during 2005. Throughout 2006, we also focused upon responding to the many letters, emails and telephone calls we received, requesting information or assistance, or expressing concerns about various aspects of the Part E compensation program. The concerns expressed to us ranged from issues with the statute itself, and/or the implementing regulations, policies and procedures, to general administrative issues.
In responding to complaints, grievances and requests for assistance, we regularly meet with and consult the staff of the Department of Labor’s Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation (DEEOIC). These meetings and consultations are fruitful. During the course of 2007, the Office of the Ombudsman expects to:
- Conduct additional outreach, traveling to meet with claimants and potential claimants to hear, firsthand, of their concerns and difficulties in obtaining Part E compensation.
- Respond to emails and telephone calls from claimants, potential claimants, and other members of the public.
- Continue our interactions with DEEOIC.
This report is a short summary of the comments that this Office has received as a result of the personal contacts, the emails, and the telephone conversations from claimants erns about various aspects of the Part E compensation program.