ALLIANCE OF NUCLEAR WORKER ADVOCACY GROUPS
 
Coalition for a Healthy Environment, Oak Ridge, TN
Harry Williams 865-693-7249, Janet Michel 865-966-5918
Grassroots Organization of Sick Workers, Craig, CO
Terrie Barrie 970-824-2260
 
February 23, 2006
 
The Honorable Joshua Bolten
Director, Office of Management and Budget
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
725 Seventeenth Street NW
Washington, DC 20503
 
Dear Director Bolten:
 
The Alliance of Nuclear Worker Advocacy Groups (ANWAG) expresses its outrage over the Bush administration's attempt to limit the costs associated with the benefits for claimants covered under the Energy Employee Occupational Illness Compensation Act (EEOICPA). 
 
We find it unconscionable that the White House would choose to contain costs by delaying or denying benefits to deserving workers and by circumventing the Congressionally mandated scientific process.
 
Six years ago the U.S. Government admitted they placed loyal and patriotic workers in harms way during their employment at the nuclear weapons facilities.  EEOICPA was passed by Congress and signed by  Presidents Clinton.  President Bush signed the reform bill, enacted in 2004.
 
The "OMB Passback" memo lists five procedures in which the Administration intends to "contain growth in the cost of benefits provided by the program." The first is to require the Administration's clearance on SEC determinations.  This, in our opinion, is contrary to the law.  The legislation is specific when it comes to petitions for classes of employees to be designated as a member of the Special Exposure Cohort.  If the Presidential Advisory Board on Radiation Worker Health decides that the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) cannot feasibly reconstruct dose with sufficient accuracy, a recommendation to approve the Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) status is sent to the Secretary of Health and Human Services for his approval and then on to Congress.  Allowing the Administration to review SEC determinations places budgetary considerations over  the scientific process.
 
The Board weighs evidence presented both by NIOSH and the petitioners.  Its contractor, Sanford Cohen and Associates, who employs an expert team of health physicists, supports the Board in its evaluation of SEC petitions. The Administration's intent to require an "expedited review by outside experts"  is unnecessary and unwarranted.   The Board does not make a decision to recommend a facility to be included in the SEC lightly.
 
ANWAG has concerns as to the balance of the Advisory Board.  We understand that two members were recently removed and replaced.  As NIOSH has not posted the replacements on their website, we are in the dark as to whether all areas - medical, worker and scientific perspectives - remain in balance.
 
One of the replacements, Dr. James Lockey, has been an expert witness for DOE in lawsuits against the department, which causes a conflict of interest.  He should be removed as soon as possible.
 
 Item number 4 requires that NIOSH apply conflict of interest (COI) rules and constraints to the Advisory Board's contractor ( SC & A).   SC & A's COI policy is much more rigid than NIOSH places upon their dose reconstruction contractor, Oak Ridge Associated Universities.  We suggest that the OMB direct  NIOSH to implement a comperably strict COI policy or hire another contractor that is more suitable .  The harassment of SC & A must be dropped.  They are doing an excellent job.
 
The Administration should be looking for ways to assist claimants, eliminate conflict of interest, and strive for the highest standards of science excellence.  ANWAG is vehemently opposed to any reduction in benefits, either under part B of the program or Part E.
 
Sincerely,
 
Terrie Barrie
for ANWAG members