April 2, 2001
Dear Senator Hatch:
I wish to address the futility of shifting the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act from the Department of Labor, which was to be the endserver from the beginning, to the Department of Justice, which has neither the resources, familiarity or manpower, to properly serve those who would be covered. Details of this deficiency have been a matter of widespread press reports recently.
On a Washington trip last summer, a group of ill workers, myself included, had brief meetings with a number of bipartisan contacts. We told the human sides of our stories, how the quality of life and plunging standard of living added to an already debilitating situation. While we were met by courteous legislators and staffers, who showed much sympathy for our plight, we also found that within days of a decision on this action, there was still bickering among the various offices about what channel of command was necessary. Some said they had only heard of the bill within the last few weeks, whereas, public record showed all of the principals had been copied as early as May. Our group had an emotional meeting with a Department of Justice representative, who agreed with our needs, and "felt our pain', only to turn the meeting around the very next day, to attack union and other departmental supporters. This did little to enhance the image of the Justice Department.
The USDOJ website offers a look of what might be ahead. The RECA compensation awards total out to almost exactly 50% approval. We understand from the press that some are dying of their radiation-induces illnesses, while being given "IOU's" from the government. Most hospitals would probably not take these IOU's as payment.
Also, the 'bonus' $50,000, pursuant to the EEOICP, cannot be filed through the Department of Labor. Moreover, the Department of Justice does not accept or process claims (for the RECA extension) under the EEOICP.
There will be more stalling, more turf wars, more political wranglings, and all the while, ill people need treatment. And the problem will only continue, as in the last few weeks, there have been reports of exposures at Rocky Flats, Savannah River, Oak Ridge, Idaho Falls, and others.
However this 'Plan' is handled, it will need caring and competent people, who will work with those of us who are affected, tired, sick, and more than a little frustrated. We need to know that "Justice" is not a hollow word.