Congress passed the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA), effective July 1, 2001, to provide compensation to people who have developed certain illnesses as a result of exposure to radioactive and toxic substances while employed in atomic weapons programs.
If you or a loved one have been impacted, reach out to an EEOICPA attorney right away. You deserve whatever restitution is available, and we’re dedicated to helping make this as simple as possible.
Need EEOICPA Claims Assistance?
- We can help you with the preparation and submission of claims under the EEOICPA.
- We can assist you in obtaining all documentation necessary for your claim, including difficult-to-obtain medical and employer records, from a variety of sources.
- We work directly with government agencies in the processing of your claim.
Our fees for assisting with claims under EEOICPA Part B are set by statute, and we do not collect any fees unless and until your claim is paid. In other words, no attorneys’ fees are charged for unsuccessful claims.
If we are filing an initial claim for payment of lump sum compensation under EEOICPA Part B, our fees are two percent of the total payment made. For example, upon payment of a $150,000 claim, Stephens & Stephens collects $3,000, and the remainder is paid to the client.
If we are objecting to a recommended decision denying payment of lump sum compensation under EEOICPA Part B, our fee is ten percent of the total payment made.
Expenses payable in addition to the statutory attorney fee will be discussed in advance. For example, if it is necessary to order documents to support your claim, we may request that you provide payment for the actual cost of the document before we order it, or we may request that you provide such payment when your claim is paid.
Overview of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act
The EEOICPA was passed on October 30, 2000, effective July 31, 2001. It was later amended by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002 and the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005.
Under Subtitle B of the EEOICPA, “covered employees” can receive compensation ($150,000 and medical benefits from the date a claim is filed) for working at a Department of Energy (DOE) facility or an atomics weapon employer (AWE) facility. Compensation amounts are provided by an entitlement fund in the United States Treasury, which is replenished as necessary. The funding may be limited or removed only by act of Congress.
In cases of covered employees who are deceased at the time of payment of compensation, payments are made first to the spouse, then (if no spouse) in equal shares to living children, then (if no spouse and no children) in equal shares to living parents, then (if no spouse, children, or parents) in equal shares to living grandchildren, then (if no spouse, children, parents, or grandchildren) in equal shares to living grandparents.
If an eligible covered employee dies before filing a claim, a survivor entitled to payment may file the claim. Such survivors may also file claims on behalf of eligible individuals who have died before filing a EEOICPA claim. The eligible survivor must be alive to receive the payment.
Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) Claims Can Be Fast-Tracked
A covered employee under Subtitle B includes a covered employee with cancer. Eligibility may also be established by beryllium disease or silicosis.
A covered employee with cancer with Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) status may be compensated without having to go through the lengthy process of proving cause, like other claimants. SEC status allows for fast-track compensation, without the need for a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) dose reconstruction and a Department of Labor (DOL) determination as to probability of causation (read more on this below).
The SEC is a defined category of employees who have any of 22 specified cancers including:
- Bone cancer
- Renal cancers
- Leukemia (other than chronic lymphocytic leukemia), provided the onset of the disease was at least two years after first exposure
- Lung cancer (other than in-situ lung cancer that is discovered during or after a post-mortem exam)
Or one of the following diseases, provided onset was at least five years after first exposure:
- Multiple myeloma
- Lymphomas (other than Hodgkin’s disease)
- Primary cancer of the Bile ducts
- Brain cancer
- Breast cancer
- Colon cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Gallbladder cancer
- Liver cancer (except if cirrhosis or hepatitis B is indicated)
- Ovarian cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Cancer of the pharynx
- Cancer of the salivary glands
- Small intestinal cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Urinary bladder cancer
A Special Exposure Cohort employee must have worked for at least 250 aggregated days of employment in a class or classes at any of the SEC work sites. A class is a group of employees who worked at the same facility and for whom the availability of exposure information is comparable for purposes of dose reconstruction.
For example, a given SEC work site may have classes of employees for only certain dates of operation. The total number of days of employment in a class at each facility can be combined together to meet the 250-day requirement.
EEOICPA Part E Claims
Former Subtitle D of the Act, managed by DOE, provided assistance to nuclear workers in obtaining state workers’ compensation benefits as a result of work-related toxic substance illnesses. The program under Subtitle D was replaced in October 2004 by a new program under Subtitle E, managed by the DOL, which provides compensation (and medical benefits under certain circumstances) to covered employees (or their surviving spouses and/or their surviving children who, at the time of the worker’s death, were under the age of 18, or full-time students under the age of 23, or of any age and incapable of self-support), for illnesses caused by exposure to any toxic substance while working at a DOE facility.
Compensation is based on the amount of disability ($2,500 for each percentage point of impairment; e.g., $25,000 for 10% disability) and/or loss of income prior to your normal Social Security retirement age ($10,000 for each year of 25%-50% wage loss, and $15,000 for each year of wage loss greater than 50%, plus an additional 45% if you suffered a 75% wage loss for three years).
If you have not previously filed for benefits under the former Subtitle D, you will need to apply for benefits under the new Subtitle E.
Some individuals who have received payments under EEOICPA Subtitle B or RECA may be eligible for other federal payments if qualified under EEOICPA Subtitle E.
EEOICPA Claim Process: What to Expect
The claim process can be convoluted, but we have extensive experience in this area. Trust our team to guide you through the EEOICPA claim process. Here’s what you can expect.
1. DOL Referral to NIOSH
For claims other than SEC claims, when a claim is filed under EEOICPA, the Department of Labor makes an initial determination as to whether the claimant worked at a covered facility during a covered time period and has a qualifying health condition.
If the health condition at issue is cancer, the case is sent to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for “dose reconstruction,” the process of estimating a worker’s past exposure to radiation, based upon exposure monitoring and other information.
NIOSH then sends an acknowledgment letter to the claimant notifying them that NIOSH received the case from the DOL for dose reconstruction. While a case is pending with NIOSH for dose reconstruction, claimants are given a NIOSH tracking number, which allows them to obtain their current case status online. NIOSH tracking numbers are assigned in the order the case is received from the DOL. NIOSH currently completes 300-400 dose reconstructions per month.
2. NIOSH Dose Reconstruction Process
NIOSH attempts to use personal exposure information (film badge readings, x-rays, urinalysis results, incident reports, etc.) whenever possible. If little or no personal exposure information is available, NIOSH will use technical documents (site profiles, etc.) and coworker data to provide reasonable dose estimates to fill in the gaps. Once the NIOSH contractor has received enough information to conduct the dose reconstruction, NIOSH selects a health physicist to work on the particular case.
Questionnaires are sent to claimants, and answers are submitted via telephone interviews. The telephone interviews are conducted to offer claimants/survivors an opportunity (optional/voluntary) to provide additional information not described in the radiation exposure information. A written telephone interview summary report is sent to the claimant following the interview to provide an opportunity for review and to submit corrections/additional information (also via telephone).
Following the telephone interview, NIOSH performs an analysis and prepares a report of ranges of estimates, including worst-case figures.
The draft dose reconstruction report is sent to the claimant for review. Within two weeks of receipt of the draft report, NIOSH conducts an optional closing interview with the claimant to review the results and the basis for their calculation and to address any remaining questions/concerns.
If NIOSH revises the draft report, the claimant will be sent a revised copy, and a new closing interview will be scheduled. Otherwise, if a claimant disagrees with the NIOSH draft dose reconstruction report, they may state such disagreement only later upon receipt of the DOL’s recommended decision in the case.
The claimant is required to sign and return an OCAS-1 form (OCAS is the NIOSH Office of Compensation Analysis and Support) within sixty days from the date of receipt of the draft dose reconstruction report, stating that they have no information to add and authorizing NIOSH to forward the complete report to the DOL for a decision.
NIOSH will send the claimant a copy of the final dose reconstruction report upon its receipt of a signed OCAS-1 form. If NIOSH does not receive the OCAS-1 form, NIOSH will administratively close the case and refuse to forward it to the DOL. The case may be reopened once the signed OCAS-1 form is submitted.
In the case of multiple claimants, partial compensation will only be awarded to those individuals who return a signed OCAS-1 form.
The Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health (comprised of scientific, medical, and worker perspectives) reviews dose reconstructions for scientific validity and accuracy.
3. DOL Determination Regarding Probability of Causation
Once the dose reconstruction is completed by NIOSH, the case is returned to the DOL. The Department of Labor reviews the dose reconstruction report, as well as medical, employment, and other information from the employee/survivor.
The DOL then makes a determination as to probability of causation, expressed as a percentage (0% – 100%) – the probability that the cancer was “at least as likely as not” due to the employee’s occupational exposure to ionizing radiation during employment at a covered facility during a covered time period (i.e., periods in which nuclear weapons-related production occurred).
Also, facilities having significant contamination may have quantities of residual radioactive material that “could have caused or substantially contributed to the cancer of a covered employee.” A percentage value greater than or equal to 50% at the upper 99th percentile credibility limit constitutes a finding that it is “at least as likely as not” that the radiation dose caused the employee’s cancer. The DOL will recommend compensation for those cases for which the probability of causation is 50% or greater, but not for those cases for which the probability of causation is less than 50%.
The DOL may determine that the cancer was caused not by occupational radiation exposure, but otherwise by environment, lifestyle, or heredity, based upon identified behaviors, characteristics, and activities (risk factors). The DOL uses a computer program developed by NIOSH, known as NIOSH-IREP, to calculate probability of causation. The main determinants of “probability of causation” are cancer risk models (mathematical models based upon the dose-response relationship determined for a given cancer type, taking into account the cancer type, year of birth, year of cancer diagnosis, years of exposure, radiation type, and dose, but not taking into account any other occupational, environmental, or dietary carcinogens, with the exception of smoking for lung cancer and ethnicity for skin cancer) and radiation dose levels (i.e., the amount of radiation dose to which an employee was exposed, based on estimation methods erring in favor of the claimant).
The DOL uses the dose reconstruction results developed by NIOSH, as well as the employee’s personal characteristics, employment, and medical information.
Requirement of Notification to the DOL of Attorney Representative
Claimants who would like to authorize another to represent them or to speak on their behalf are required to contact the DOL District Office where the claim was originally filed and notify the DOL that they would like to appoint someone to represent them under EEOICPA.
The DOL will only recognize one individual representative at any one time, and therefore one authorization must be withdrawn before another individual representative may be appointed.
Additional Records to Supplement Your EEOICPA Claim
Other records may be needed to round out for EEOICPA claim. Your attorney at Stephens & Stephens can help you gather them. They may include:
- Medical Records – Additional medical information related to the same cancer may be sent to NIOSH at any time and added to the file for consideration. Additional medical information related to a new/additional primary cancer, not originally reported, requires contacting the DOL, because the DOL had not had an opportunity to verify the new/additional cancer before originally sending the file to NIOSH for dose reconstruction.
- Employment Records – Additional employment information must be sent to the DOL, not NIOSH, because the DOL had not had an opportunity to verify the new/additional employment information before originally sending the file to NIOSH for dose reconstruction.
- Post-Decision Documentation – Additional information about a case may be submitted to the DOL after it has made a decision, and the DOL will decide whether or not to reopen the case and return it to NIOSH for rework.
Suffering because of an illness caused by nuclear energy work? You’re not alone. Reach out to your EEOICPA lawyer for help, and check out the following commonly asked questions below for further information.
Are EEOICPA settlements taxable?
Luckily, certain federal laws prevent workers’ settlements from being taxed. US Code 42 states that your compensation is not included in your gross income when it comes to filing your taxes.
Do I need a lawyer if I’ve suffered injuries related to my work?
Getting compensated when you’ve suffered because of your occupation shouldn’t be difficult. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy. You may not have the resources for your claim, and filing a formal claim is already hard when you’re sick. Make your claim easier on yourself by seeking out an attorney.
What illnesses or injuries are covered by the EEOICPA?
Exposure to toxic or nuclear substances can cause lasting damage to your health. Long-term illnesses like silicosis, certain types of cancers, and beryllium disease are just a few possible types. Talk to your occupation illness attorney about your eligibility before you file.
How do I prove being an energy worker caused my occupational illness?
If your injuries or illnesses don’t meet eligibility requirements for SEC claims, you may need to do more to prove you’re due compensation. Your evidence may include proving you were employed by the company and that you were exposed to dangerous substances over time. Your lawyer can help you determine your best options for evidence.
How much is my EEOICPA claim worth?
The value of a claim may vary based on age, years worked, exposure amounts, and other factors. When seeking compensation from the right authorities, you may have trouble getting the compensation you’re due. Luckily, your lawyer is here to help. They can calculate your claim’s value, as well as ensure you seek compensation from the right department and that you act swiftly for your claim.
Reach Out to an Attorney for Help with Your EEOICPA Claim
Radiation and toxic substance exposure is a tragedy. You don’t deserve to be dealing with its aftermath, but you do deserve compensation. An EEOICPA attorney from Stephens & Stephens is well-versed in the claims process and can help you file. Call 716-852-7590 or fill out our contact form for a free, no-obligation consult with a member of our team.