From: Secretary Elaine Chao
Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2001 18:44:36 -0400

To the DOL Team:

One of the more important issues I have dealt with since coming here as Secretary has been the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act, which I first had described to me by the unwieldly acronym "EEOICPA."

After a long process of trying to find the best way -- and the best place --to administer this program, I have told the White House today that I would like to keep the program here at the Department of Labor.

My first and only concern from the beginning has been to take care of the workers who were harmed as a result of their loyal service to the country. I am very grateful to Shelby Hallmark and the excellent staff at the Office of Workers Compensation Programs for alerting me to the difficulties of meeting the statutory deadlines for this program, and the longer-term problems of claims adjudication.

We explored a number of options for relocating and restructuring the program, while the OWCP staff has continued to prepare for the possibility of implementing the program here.

I have since decided that it is in the workers' best interest to end these speculations and affirmatively keep the program at the Labor Department. We've got a fair amount of relevant expertise, and if I have learned anything about this agency since I came here, it is that we've also got the heart to do the work.

This issue has had personal and emotional resonance for me, because I live in a state where a large number of affected workers and their families are located. These are people I see when I go home to Kentucky, and I have always wanted to make sure that whatever final decision we made, it would be the right one for the workers -- not on the basis of politics or outside interests or turf battles.

Finally, I want to stress that I have the utmost respect for the career professionals at OWCP -- and I hope no one would construe my efforts or my comments as suggesting anything to the contrary. This is one hard-working, experienced staff -- and I am confident they are up to the challenge.

Thanks for everything!