The Portsmouth Daily Times

Portsmouth Daily Times

Agreement will pertain to USEC Workers

DOE offers to help sick workers with compensation claims

Wednesday, Sept 25, 2002

By Jeff Barron
PDT Staff Writer

The U.S. Department of Energy has reached agreements with 11 states on how to help contractor employees obtain help in applying for state worker's compensation benefits under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA).

The agreement will pertain to some workers at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant Piketon. The DOE owns the plant, which it has leased to the United States Enrichment Corporation since 1993..

"All steps are in place to help workers obtain assistance," said DOE spokeswoman Dolline Hatchett.

The states which the DOE reached agreements with are Ohio, Alaska, California, Colorado,Iowa, Kentucky,

New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.

The DOE said more agreements are pending.

Under the program, workers or survivors may apply to the DOE for a determination of whether an illness or death was because of exposure to toxic substance at a DOE plant. The Claim will then be reviewed by an independent physician's panel.

If the panel finds a worker's illness was caused by exposure, it will assist the worker in filing a claim with the state.. The panel will also direct the worker's contractor not to contest the claim.

"That's an added assurance we're trying to make to the workers." Hatchett said.

The DOE said it has received 19,000 cases so far.

"We're already processing the claims," Hatchett said. "Well proceed in the order they are received and will receive full attention."

Each case is being assigned to an Office of Workers Advocacy nurse caseworker who will be the patient's contact.

But McDermott resident Vina Colley was not impressed with DOE"S action. She represents the National Nuclear Workers for Justice and said contacted respiratory disease while working at the gaseous diffusion plant. " I though the U.S. Department of Energy was going to help sick workers,"she said.

Colley said she received a letter from the Ohio Labor and Industry's Worker Compensation Administration saying it plans to deny her medical claim after approving her benefits since the 1980's