Compensation for Energy Workers, $8 Billion and Counting

by Gary Steinberg on July 3, 2012 · 2 comments

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.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Susan Anderson July 5, 2012 at 8:54 am

Why are JUST energy workers expected to be compensated? The article notes: “asbestosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary fibrosis as a result of exposure to toxic substances.”, in addition to cancer and other noted conditions. Other industries have some of the same exposure (i.e. insulation industry, ship building, paint manufacturing, etc). Also, any contractor/subcontractor working on an energy site must complete the Energy Facilities OSHA equivalent training and have met the workers compensation insurance requirements. It is my understanding workers comp would be covering the afore mentioned. If energy workers are receiving the additional compensation, so should other industries.

2 Alan July 13, 2012 at 9:35 am

Susan: Just to provide a brief partial answer your question, it is because the program was created by Congress specifically to compensate those Dept. of Energy employees (and employees of DOE contractors and subcontractors) whose illness was contracted due to exposure to radiation, etc. while working in facilities that dealt with nuclear weapons production or testing. It was aimed at compensating those who had worked on the Manhattan Project in the 1940s, and those who had worked in the federal government’s nuclear weapon’s industry during the Cold War in the 1950s and onward, without being informed by the government that the work they were doing was exposing them to harmful radiation and other toxic substances. The program was created in an attempt to right a specific wrong that the government had done to its employees. That’s why the benefits aren’t available to other industries even though such employees (insulation workers, shipbuilders, paint manufacturing employees, etc.) may be likewise exposed and harmed.

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