A senior attorney at the Labor Department has accused agency officials of writing and manipulating regulations to intentionally delay and deny congressionally mandated compensation to nuclear-weapons workers who suffered from sicknesses—and in some cases died—as a result of their work building the nation’s Cold War nuclear arsenal.
The attorney, Stephen Silbiger, is claiming that Tom Perez and the department under his leadership ignored years of his complaints about the “open hostility” he said some officials exhibited toward claimants, many of whom are too poor and sick to fight the agency’s denials and red tape in federal court.
However, Silbiger and other critics say government officials purposely prevented workers from seeking compensation. He said in an interview:
“There’s explicit hostility toward claimants, and this has become a game for bureaucrats to see how clever they can be in manipulating the statute and the regs to deny benefits to indigent claimants. The problem in the VA is that nobody would confront these people [poorly administrating the VA medical service]—it’s very similar. Nobody really cares about the program—these people have no real constituency. They’re rural, they’re elderly, they have no political clout, so they’re ignored.”
Silbiger is optimistic that President Donald Trump and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta will fix the problems. Obama officials always agreed with his findings but told him that they could not do anything to fix the problems.
ANWAG, the Alliance of Nuclear Workers Advocacy Groups agree with some of the Silbiger’s complaints. They said that they are representing more than 100 advocates across the country helping sick nuclear workers and their survivors receive compensation Congress promised them.
ANWAG official Terrie Barrie has said:
“It is ANWAG’s position that DEEOIC has, at least in the changes made for wage-loss claims, overstepped their authority by restricting the ability to claim loss of wages to a very narrow time period. Congress understood that many workers suffered from occupational disease which went often not correctly diagnosed for months after the symptoms appeared. The statute clearly lays out the manner for which DEEOIC is to figure out amount of wage loss. It does not give DEEOIC the authority to limit wage loss to only workers who were employed during the same month they were diagnosed with a covered condition.”
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