Perlmutter, Polis Praise Inaugural Meeting of Advisory Board to Oversee Compensation and Benefits Program for Workers at Rocky Flats and Other Nuclear Weapons Facilities
Panel will provide transparency, independent oversight and expert advice for program
U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) and Jared Polis (CO-02) today praised the first meeting of the Advisory Board on Toxic Substances and Worker Health for Part E of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) which is taking place April 26-28, 2016 in Washington, DC. The EEOICPA program covers former nuclear weapons facilities in 45 states and provides compensation and medical benefits to nuclear weapons workers diagnosed with medical conditions caused by their exposure to toxic substances at these facilities.
“For years, Rocky Flats workers have fought for the healthcare and compensation they earned during their service to our county. This Advisory Board will improve transparency and consistency in the program and help reduce the endless red tape these workers currently face,” said Perlmutter. “I will continue to work with the Department of Labor to ensure this Advisory Board receives the attention and resources they need and our former nuclear weapons workers receive the care and benefits they deserve.”
“The Advisory Board is an important step towards finally giving the thousands of former nuclear weapons workers at Rocky Flats the compensation and benefits they deserve,” Polis said. “I look forward to monitoring the progress of the Advisory Board to guarantee that the EEOICPA is implemented effectively and truly serves the best interest of former Rocky Flats workers.”
During the Cold War era, approximately 600,000 workers were employed at U.S. atomic weapons program facilities across the nation – including at the Rocky Flats Plant facility in Colorado – where they were unknowingly exposed to radioactive and toxic substances. As a result of this exposure, some workers have developed debilitating and often terminal illnesses. Congress enacted the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) in 2000 to provide compensation to these workers, and reforms were signed into law in 2004 to speed up claim processing and create Part E of the program. However procedural inconsistencies and delays remain and have prevented workers from successfully submitting EEOICPA claims which has blocked access to benefits befitting their service and sacrifice.
The Advisory Board was added as part of the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and required the President to establish an independent advisory panel comprised of members representing the scientific, medical, legal, worker and worker advocate communities to review and report on the scientific soundness of DOL’s implementation of the program generally and the site exposure matrix specifically.
Earlier this month, Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Thomas Perez appointed all 15 members of the advisory board which include five members from the scientific community, five members from the medical community, and five members from the claimant community. Two of the members from the claimant community worked at the Department of Energy’s Rocky Flats Plant facility located in Colorado. The board will meet at least twice per year.
In 2009, Reps. Perlmutter and Polis started working to reform the EEOICPA program by introducing the Charlie Wolf Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, which would have changed the presumptive eligibility connection for covered cancers and illnesses instead of forcing claimants to go through the lengthy and often incomplete dose reconstruction process. After unsuccessful attempts to change eligibility for the program or improve administration, Perlmutter and Polis – along with Rep. Whitfield and Sens. Mark Udall and Lamar Alexander – worked to create an Advisory Board under Part E of the EEOICPA program. Perlmutter and Polis helped secure full authorization for the Board in the FY15 NDAA which was signed into law on December 19, 2014.
In addition, DOL issued a notice of proposed rulemaking on November 18, 2015 which makes over 100 changes to administration of EEOICPA. Perlmutter and Polis sent a letter - along with Sens. Tom Udall and Lamar Alexander and Reps. Whitfield, and Ben Ray Lújan - urging the comment period to be extended until after DOL seats the Advisory Board and allow them to review and weigh in on the proposed changes. DOL announced the extension of the comment period until May 9, 2016 to allow additional comments from the claimant communities and the Advisory Board.
For more information, please visit http://www.dol.gov/owcp/energy/regs/compliance/AdvisoryBoard.htm.