An overview of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act
The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) was established in 2000 by Congress. Part B of the program became effective 18 months later. The program was designed to compensate federal employees (or their survivors) previously employed by the Department of Energy (DOE), the Atomic Weapons Employer (AWE), as well as predecessor agencies, certain vendors, contractors and subcontractors who received a diagnosis caused by exposure to beryllium, radiation or silica while working in these facilities.
The EEOICPA also provides benefits to employees (or their survivors) under Section 5 of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. Part E was established in 2004 and compensates employees, contractors, subcontractors or eligible survivors when workers become ill when employed as millers, ore transporters or uranium miners after toxic exposure.
EEOICPA covered illnesses
The wide range of illnesses covered by the EEOICPA include:
- Beryllium disease
- Occupational-related asthma
- Renal disease
In short, any illness caused by or aggravated by toxic exposure is covered by the EEOICPA.
How to prove your illness was work-related
The tricky part of a work-related illness is proving that you contracted the disease while on the job. Here are some tips to prove your case with various illnesses.
In order to prove a beryllium-related illness, employees or survivors must provide the appropriate documentation. Beryllium-related illnesses are typically diagnosed using blood and lung cell studies. Victims often undergo lung biopsies, CAT scans or pulmonary function tests to determine respiratory deficits.
Proof of exposure and subsequent illness requires:
- Abnormal chest imaging studies
- Evidence of restrictive or obstructive lung physiology
- Pathology reports consistent with lung disease processes
- Results of immunologic tests that may include blood or skin tests revealing beryllium sensitivity
Chronic silicosis refers to a non-malignant lung condition that develops after an individual suffers exposure to silica dust for a minimum of 10 years. To prove the condition and acquire compensation, an employee must provide:
- Written confirmation from a physician
- Chest imaging studies
- Results of a lung biopsy
There are 22 different cancers compensated by the EEOICPA and Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). Certain primary forms of cancer are covered if the disease developed within 5 years of exposure. Other stipulations involve the age and lifestyle of the employee. The covered cancers include:
- Bone cancer
- Lung cancer
- Renal cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Breast cancer (if the condition developed before the age of 30)
- Esophageal or pharyngeal cancer (if the worker is not deemed a heavy smoker)
- Intestinal cancers (unless the claimant consumed excess coffee or alcohol)
- Liver cancer (unless diagnosed with cirrhosis or hepatitis)
- Multiple myeloma
- Ovarian cancer
- Pancreatic cancer (as long as the employee is not a heavy smoker or consumes excessive coffee)
- Stomach cancer (if the exposure occurred before the age of 20)
- Salivary gland cancer
- Skin cancer
- Urogenital cancer
How to file an EEOICPA claim
EEOICPA claims are filed with the Department of Labor by current and former employees or their survivors. Claimants must complete Form EE-1. In order to receive EEOICPA survivor benefits, loved ones must complete form EE-2.
Along with the claim, workers must provide verification of employment at a qualifying location in addition to medical evidence of the illness sustained from the occupation. Proof of employment may include:
- Pay stubs issued by the employer
- Tax returns
- Social Security records
- Written verification provided by the employee, survivor or another individual of equal status
EEOICPA forms are provided online but they must be completed and printed. These are then submitted through the mail to the appropriate district office in the state where the claimant worked for the Department of Energy or the Atomic Weapons Employer. When DEEOIC employees receive the required documentation, they make a case file before arriving at a decision.
The EEOICPA claim status may span 6 to 12 months before applicants receive a decision. However, if an applicant has a terminal diagnosis, the process may be hastened, which leads to payment within a matter of days. A variety of factors affect the decision provided by the Department of Labor.
Once a claimant receives an EEOICPA recommended decision, the worker or survivor must read the letter carefully. The decision may be based on part or all of the medical conditions suffered and may involve further action on part of the claimant. When the district office issues the decision, the case file goes to the Final Adjudication Branch for further review and a final decision.
In the event that a claim is denied, the applicant may appeal the decision with the assistance of legal counsel. Without appropriate assistance, the process of obtaining a decision after refiling a claim may take years.
When to consult a work injury attorney near you
Injured workers in Georgia who receive a claim denial should consult with a qualified attorney near them. At Gerber & Holder Law, we can obtain a client’s case file from the Department of Labor to determine the optimal strategy in which to proceed. We are also able to assist former employees or survivors who have yet to file a claim.