Alexander Praises Continuation of Office to Aid Sick Nuclear Weapons Workers

Posted on October 24, 2007

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today praised the U.S. Department of Labor for extending the Office of the EEOICPA Ombudsman so that it can continue to help sick nuclear weapons workers navigate the complex Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICPA) as well as report to Congress the complaints received from claimants. “We must continue to help our Tennessee Cold War era heroes and their families, and I’m glad the Administration has recognized that,” Alexander said. “Now, Congress should do its job and ensure that we will continue to provide aid to all those who deserve compensation, while we work to improve the current system.” Alexander and other senators sent a letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao on October 16th to ask her to continue the Office of the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman office was created as part of the EEOICPA Reform Act of 2004, tasked with compensating American Cold War-era workers who are experiencing health complications as a result of their work in nuclear weapons-related facilities. The Ombudsman office is responsible for: • Conducting outreach to claimants and potential claimants; • Making recommendations to the Secretary of Labor about where to locate resource centers for the acceptance and development of claims; • Submitting an Annual Report to Congress each February that sets forth the number and types of complaints, grievances and requests for assistance received by the Ombudsman, and an assessment of the most common difficulties encountered by claimants and potential claimants under Part E during the previous year. Under the 2004 law, the Ombudsman office was created for three years and was slated to close by October 28, 2007 without an extension by the Department of Labor or congressional action. Alexander is an original cosponsor of an amendment offered by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) to extend the authorization of the Office of the Ombudsman for Part E by five years (through October 28, 2012). The amendment passed the Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 and is currently under review as part of a conference with the House of Representatives. The amendment will not become law unless it is included in the final version reported by the House-Senate conference and the full Congress passes and the president signs that act. A copy of the Letter from Secretary Chao is attached as well as a copy of the letter Alexander and other senators sent Chao making the request. # # #