The group, led by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said they fear that sick nuclear weapons workers are still facing significant obstacles to getting compensation for their illnesses, which they believe result in the delay or even denial of legitimate claims. The lawmakers are asking federal officials to take the initiative to make a compensation program more patient-friendly by adopting recently authored bills in the Senate and House. The Charlie Wolf Nuclear Workers Compensation Act is named for an employee who contracted cancer after exposure to radiation in his work at the Rocky Flats Plant, a nuclear weapons facility near Denver. Wolf battled the government for compensation until he died last year. Udall said the legislation would improve the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act to ensure employees aren't blocked from getting compensation by the government program that was designed to help them.
Because the bill is awaiting action in Congress, the lawmakers wrote to the secretaries of Labor and Health and Human Services, asking them to implement its provisions through "administrative rulemaking" in the meantime.
"Although we will continue to strongly promote this legislation, we are concerned that many claimants will continue to experience delays and denials of compensation until this legislation can be enacted and implemented," the lawmakers wrote. "While we are mindful of the need to review claims and make sure that compensation is due, we also believe that many deserving claimants are encountering significant obstacles in this process, obstacles that we believe result in the delay or even denial of legitimate claims."
Rulemaking is allowed under the federal Administrative Procedure Act. The lawmakers specifically asked that rules be amended to make them more effective in processing claims, lessen the burden on claimants, and take into account the difficulties of securing access to needed records and information.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 23, 2010
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