Presidential Signing Statement May Have Thwarted Congressional Intent for EEOICPA Amendment

October 12, 2006

For Immediate Release

Contact: Coalition for a Healthy Environment, Knoxville, TN:
Janet Michel 865-966-5918, Janine Anderson 865-984-0786
Grassroots Organization of Sick Workers, Craig, CO:
Terrie Barrie 970-824-2260

Craig, CO - ANWAG has repeatedly noted the Department of Labor’s (DOL) apparent disregard for Congressional intent in implementing Part E of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act of 2000 (EEOICPA). It now appears that DOL, as an agency for the Executive Branch of the government, may have overstepped its authority by choosing the President's interpretation of the law instead of Congressional intent in implementing Part E.

On, October 28, 2004, President Bush signed a "Statement on the Ronald Regan Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005", which affirmed that the Administration considers Part E of EEOICPA nothing more than a workers compensation program. The document states, "The limited extension of Federal responsibility here is unique because it is solely a replacement for no fault worker's compensation payments not otherwise available...."(emphasis added). What this means to the claimant, is that this program is not claimant friendly as intended by Congress.

Under state workers' compensation programs the standard of causation is greater than 50%. A preponderance of evidence is needed to reach this standard. Congress intended the standard to be less than 50%, as evidenced by their letter to Labor Secretary Chao (August 1, 2005). However, DOL has confirmed that they are using the same standard, i.e. greater than 50%, that is used by the states’ systems.

ANWAG has serious concerns about the role the signing statement has played in implementing Part E of EEOICPA. This signing statement, coupled with the OMB "passback memo" which contained suggestions for controlling the growth in costs for special exposure cohorts, leads us to believe that the true intent of the Administration may be to limit liability and not compensate the sick workers.

It has been two years since this amendment as part of the Defense Authorization Act was passed and the final rule for Part E has still not been released by OMB. ANWAG calls upon Congress not to wait until the final rule but to immediately hold hearings to investigate if DOL’s program is following the intent of Congress and the spirit and letter of the law.

"Congress acknowledged that '...state workers' compensation programs do not provide a uniform means of ensuring adequate compensation for the types of occupational illness...that relate' to nuclear weapons workers," stated Terrie Barrie of GOSW. "So why did DOL decide to model this compensation program after a system proven not to work for these claimants? Is it because of the Presidential signing statement? The signing statement is not the law".

"EEOICPA was passed so the workers would not need to face the problems associated with individual states’ systems," says Janet Michel of CHE. "DOL has ensured that the claimants' vision of a timely, fair program will not be fulfilled."

"Due to the classified nature of the work at the Department of Energy sites, monitoring of radiation and toxic exposure was found to be lacking. The records required to make a standard workers' compensation claim do not exist," says Angleque Bryson of GOSW. "Therefore, it is impossible for the former workers to have the same due process afforded to other workers."

"In March of 2001, DOE released the National Economic Council report, which concluded that state workers' compensation system would not be a fair and just means of compensation for the deserving Cold War warriors," stated Janine Anderson of CHE. "Mr. Peter Turcic, the director of this program, was a member of that council. And now he's saying that this will work? The latest statistics we have is that 444 wage loss claims and 121 impairment claims have been paid to living workers in two years. I don't call that working."