Some work environments such as nuclear power plants and energy-powered facilities pose unique risks that can affect families in dramatic ways. The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs administers a variety of disability benefit programs, among them is the Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation. Created under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000, the DEEOIC provides benefits to eligible Department of Energy (DOE) workers, contractors and subcontractors affected by illnesses borne from their job.
We are committed to helping workers who have dedicated their careers to our nation’s security. Unfortunately, there are too many cases when a work-related illness results in an employee’s death. Many families are left struggling not only with the loss of a loved one but just to get by. Thanks to Part B of our program, there is tangible help. Employees (or their eligible survivors) can make a claim for compensation of $150,000 as well as medical benefits if the worker was diagnosed with cancer, beryllium disease or silicosis caused by exposure to work-related radiation, beryllium or silica. And Part E provides compensation to DOE contractors and subcontractors who worked at covered facilities and sustained any illness (e.g. asbestosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary fibrosis) as a result of exposure to toxic substances.
Twelve years after the inception of the DEEOIC program, a milestone has been reached: more than $8 billion in monetary compensation and medical benefits has been paid to 78,000 employees or their families nationwide. Since January of 2009 alone, the program has paid more than $3.5 billion in benefits.
Despite these numbers, there are potentially eligible individuals who may not be aware of the benefits available. To bring attention to our program, we conduct regular town hall meetings throughout the country. In the last year, the DEEOIC has held town hall meetings or traveling resource centers in New York, Georgia, Texas and Tennessee.
In addition, the Department of Labor has eleven DEEOIC resource centers nationwide with specialists on-hand to educate potential claimants with information about their eligibility, rights, and how to apply. DEEOIC will be holding a town hall meeting in Upton, New York in July, 2012 to provide information about the eligibility requirements, provide status updates to existing claimants, and intake new claims.
We strive to facilitate the claims process for workers in these highly-exposed positions should they fall ill or die. There are benefits available to provide solace to them and their families, and we are here to help.
Gary Steinberg is the Acting Director for the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs.© Copyright 2012 U.S. Department of Labor