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USA Dept of Labor’s program changes delay health care for Cold War nuclear workers (hoping they die first?)

Department of Labor adds dozens of steps that may delay healthcare for Cold War nuclear workers https://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/health/2019/04/12/cold-war-nuclear-workers-say-red-tape-delaying-critical-medical-care/3399814002/

Brittany Crocker, Knoxville News Sentine  April 12, 2019 Sick and injured Cold War nuclear workers are likely to see delays in their health care claims because the Department of Labor has added dozens of steps to the process, according to a home care provider that helps the workers.

The program provides medical care to former nuclear and uranium mine workers who were exposed to radiation and other toxic substances without their knowledge was established by Congress in 2000.

 New rule changes to the program — called the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program — will increase the nine-step home health care preauthorization process to 36 steps, said Emily Baker, a spokeswoman for Professional Case Management, a home care provider for nuclear and uranium workers. Those additional steps could add two months to the process, she said.

Baker said the changes also prevent health care providers from helping patients submit the paperwork.

The Department of Labor has not responded to requests made Thursday and Friday for information regarding the purpose of the changes.

Professional Case Management sued the Department of Labor last month to try to stop the changes from going into effect, and more than 2,000 wrote and called the Department to protest the changes, according to the provider.

“These sick people can’t navigate all this red tape,” said Harry Williams, a 73-year-old former Oak Ridge nuclear security officer who helped lobby for the program’s creation.

“We’re old and dying and sick and they expect us to accurately fill out and navigate all these forms and send them to the right places by ourselves. It’s wrong to put these workers through that after all we sacrificed.”

Williams, a military veteran, went to work in 1976 at the K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Oak Ridge because it offered good pay and benefits.

He stayed there until 1994, when he moved to the Y-12 National Security Complex. Two years later he had to go on disability.

“I never realized I was being poisoned all the time I was working in Oak Ridge,” he said. “If someone had told me how hazardous it was I never would have worked there.

Harris has chronic beryllium disease, an incurable illness common among nuclear workers who inhaled dust or fumes of beryllium, a material that was commonly used at Y-12 and less often at K-25.

Harris said he developed heart disease, asthma, sinusitis and hypothyroidism because of the disease.

He has diabetes, has had six heart attacks, and has brain lesions he believes are also related to his work at the Oak Ridge nuclear sites. “I’m fortunate because I’ve never smoked or drank and have stayed fairly active with this illness, but I’ve been sick for a long time,” Harris said.

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April 13, 2019 - Posted by | employment, health, USA

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