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FirstEnergy Solutions moves to ditch union contracts for bailed out nuclear plants, drawing Democrats’ ire

FirstEnergy Solutions moves to ditch union contracts for bailed out plants, drawing Democrats’ ire

FirstEnergy Solutions’ veteran nuclear plant workers would lose traditional pensions if a bankruptcy court agrees with the latest FES restructuring plan, Utility Dive,   John Funk Aug. 15 2019, “…….

On the same day in July that Ohio lawmakers approved state-wide customer charges to give FirstEnergy Solutions a six-year $1.1 billon nuclear plant subsidy, the company told a bankruptcy court it could not honor existing contracts with unions representing power plant employees and intended to negotiate completely new bargaining agreements once it emerged as a reorganized company.
That revelation emerged Friday in an objection to the company’s latest reorganization plan by lawyers representing locals of the Utility Workers Union of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The unions were among more than half dozen parties in the case filing objections.

In a reference to the FES reorganization plan filed July 23 — less than 12 hours after House Bill 6 had been approved by the legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine — the unions argue that the company intends to use the court to emerge from bankruptcy without its union contracts. And that contradicts the testimony of David Griffing, the company’s vice president of governmental affairs, the union filing to the court charges.

Griffing assured lawmakers in April before an Ohio House subcommittee that “that new [collective bargaining agreements] were in essence agreed upon … Both parties … believe the negotiations were acceptable.” But Friday’s filing on behalf of the union locals indicates that the company has neither agreed to assume the existing contracts nor reached new ones with the unions at two of the three FES nuclear plants, Perry, east of Cleveland and Beaver Valley, near Pittsburgh.

The struggle between the company and its unions is erupting publicly just weeks before court hearings are scheduled on the company’s bankruptcy reorganization plan and also comes at a time when opponents of HB 6 are gearing up a referendum petition drive to put the subsidy issue before voters on the November 2020 ballot.

The union is basing its position in the bankruptcy struggle to remain viable at the power plants on the argument that “successorship clauses” in the contracts obligate FES to require any new company — including a reorganized FirstEnergy Solutions — to assume the contracts as they were agreed to.  The unions point out that FES abided by that contract language when it sold other power plants to outside companies.

FES: Can’t assume the contract

The company position, as laid out in its July 23 reorganization plan, is that the reorganized FES cannot assume the contract because “the collective bargaining agreements require the Debtors to provide benefits to their employees under health care, severance, welfare, incentive compensation, and retirement plans sponsored by FirstEnergy Corp.”

Instead, FES wants to negotiate new terms “consistent with the business plan” of the reorganized company. FES also held out the possibility that it might ask the court to throw out the contracts.

The unions are countering that under the bankruptcy code and existing case law, the company must declare before reorganization whether it is rejecting the contract. “They simply want the benefit of plan confirmation, without deciding whether to assume or reject,” the union attorneys wrote. “However this is not what the law provides.”

The union filing reveals that in bargaining talks over the past few months the company has contended that the benefits in the existing union contracts, particularly the pension benefits, “are non-replicable.”

The union filing also notes that it would have the right to file an “administrative damage claim” later if the issue is not resolved now and the company later decides to reject the contracts out of hand.

Unions play key role in HB 6

The power plant unions played what has been described as a key role in the company’s media and lobbying campaigns to persuade Democrat lawmakers of the necessity of approving the unprecedented bailout in Ohio of an unregulated power plant company……
 Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron, issued a statement Monday questioning FirstEnergy Solutions’ move and praising unions for quickly filing their objection in bankruptcy court.

“HB 6 was problematic because I thought it was a bad idea to direct rate payer money to a corporation who refused to unequivocally agree to protect and support union contracts and the men and women who rely on those contracts to put food on their table,” Sykes wrote.

“Less than 12 hours after the bill was signed into law, the ink hardly dry, FirstEnergy Solutions began backing away from the workers who depend on those jobs. FES can make this right by coming to the table and affirming and recognizing these union employees who deserve to be treated fairly through this process,” she continued………  https://www.utilitydive.com/news/firstenergy-solutions-moves-to-ditch-union-contracts-for-bailed-out-plants/560236/?fbclid=IwAR3qbI100d-e46tFg5caow77Aer8fg3QfZ0Ud8H1J-84f5tJS0M85_bRcJ0

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August 22, 2019 Posted by | employment, Legal | Leave a comment

Brexit proving a problem for the nuclear industry – shortage of welders for Hinkley Point C project,

Energy Voice 19th Aug 2019 , Britain’s plan to revitalize its aging nuclear energy infrastructure is
likely to take a hit if Brexit jeopardizes a crucial supply of welders. The
skilled workers have been in short supply for years, a strain that will
likely worsen as new nuclear projects are built.
About 13% of Britain’s welders come from other countries in the European Economic Area, according
to the Migration Advisory Committee, which keeps a list of occupations with
a shortage of workers.
Without those additional workers, it’s likely to
become more difficult and costly to build and operate multi-billion-dollar
atomic plants, which are crucial to the U.K.’s target to produce net-zero
carbon emissions by 2050.
The stress is already apparent at Electricite de
France SA’s 19.6 billion-pound ($24 billion) Hinkley Point C project, the
only nuclear plant now under construction in Britain. “Hinkley requires a
large number of welders,” said Peter Haslam, who retired on Friday as
head of policy at the Nuclear Industry Association. “They come from
Europe. We need these people to have easy access to the U.K.”

https://www.energyvoice.com/otherenergy/nuclear/205758/lack-of-welders-threatens-johnsons-uk-nuclear-renaissance/

August 20, 2019 Posted by | employment, UK | Leave a comment

Revealed: mental health crisis at Hinkley Point C nuclear construction site

Revealed: mental health crisis at Hinkley Point C construction site.
Guardian 13th Aug 2019 Several workers on nuclear plant have killed themselves or attempted to,
says union. Hinkley is grappling with a mental illness crisis, with several
attempted suicides since work began in 2016, a Guardian investigation can
reveal.
More than 4,000 workers are on site delivering the vast decade-long
building project, a central plank in Britain’s future energy strategy. But
according to union officials, there has been a surge in suicide attempts
this year, a rise in the number of people off sick with stress, anxiety and
depression, and an increase in workers suffering from mental distress.
Officials from the Unite union say they have been told of 10 suicide
attempts in the first four months of 2019. The Guardian understands at
least two workers connected to the project have taken their lives since
construction started in earnest in 2016.
The main causes of the distress
appear to be loneliness, relationship breakdown and the struggle of being
sometimes hundreds of miles away from family. At Hinkley, workers live on
special campuses in nearby Bridgwater, or else in converted digs in the
town. They work a variety of shift patterns and are shuttled to and from
the site on scores of buses. Some contractors work as much as 11 days on
with three days off, including an extra weekend day for travelling home.
But the Guardian understands that most people can cope with the stress and
pressure of the work. The problems start once they clock off.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/aug/13/revealed-suicide-alarm-hinkley-point-c-construction-site

Guardian 13th Aug 2019 Angie Young, the health and wellbeing manger at the Hinkley Point C (HPC)
site, does not hesitate when asked what the main cause of mental health
issues there is. “It’s loneliness. You’re living away from home,
living without your family. Loneliness is the big thing.” But a major
complicating factor is that tough men who build stuff are not always great
at talking about feelings. “Our guys are construction guys – they are
macho. The average age is 45-55. They haven’t got someone nagging them to
go and see someone. We’re trying to address that.”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/aug/13/no-more-man-up-better-mental-health-hinkley-point-c

August 15, 2019 Posted by | employment, social effects, UK | Leave a comment

U.S. Bill: he Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2019

RECA bill calls for congressional apology to victims of radiation exposure,   http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/114180-reca-bill-calls-for-congressional-apology-to-victims-of-radiation-exposure18 Jul 2019, By Mar-Vic Cagurangan – For Variety  

HAGÅTÑA — The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2019, officially introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, includes a congressional apology to individuals exposed to radiation while either working in or living near uranium mines or downwind from nuclear weapon test sites.

The bill, introduced by New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Lujan and cosponsored by Guam Delegate Michael San Nicolas, would expand the coverage of the RECA program to include Guam and the Northern Marianas.

The RECA program is set to expire in 2022. The bill, if enacted into law, would extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Trust Fund until 2045.

Other jurisdictions covered by the proposed RECA expansion are New Mexico, Idaho, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Texas, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, South Dakota, North Dakota and Nevada.

“Tens of thousands of individuals, including miners, transporters, and other employees who worked directly in uranium mines, along with communities located near test sites for nuclear weapons, were exposed during the mid-1900s to dangerous radiation that has left communities struggling from cancer, birth defects, and other illnesses,” states a press release from Lujan’s office.

The RECA amendment legislation provides health and monetary compensations for individuals who were exposed to high levels of radiation that caused sickness, cancer and deaths in identified jurisdictions.

A similar bill was introduced by Sen. Mike Crapo in the U.S. Senate.

The 35th Guam Legislature is scheduled today, Thursday, to hold a public hearing on Resolution 94-35, supporting the passage of Crapo’s S. 947.

The bill does not include the CNMI.

In August 2018, CNMI Delegate Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan said the Northern Marianas should also be considered “downwinders.”

“Perhaps, because the [Northern] Marianas was not represented in Congress in 2005, we were not included in a congressionally mandated study of how fallout from nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands may have harmed people on downwind islands,” Sablan said in an August 2018 letter to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. “I think that inequity needs to be addressed.”

July 18, 2019 Posted by | employment, politics, radiation, USA | Leave a comment

UK’s Sizewell C nuclear project not likely to provide many local jobs

East Anglian Daily Times 14th July 2019 Anti-nuclear campaigners have disputed the number of jobs that a new power
station on the Suffolk coast will create – and say it will not provide
enough long-term opportunities. EDF Energy says the Sizewell C nuclear
plant is expected to provide 25,000 jobs over the 10-year construction
period with 5,600 workers on site at its peak, and says it is “absolutely
committed” to creating local jobs, skills and training opportunities. It
says the project will provide up to £200million a year to boost the
county’s economy, and create 900 full-time jobs once operational.

But Together Against Sizewell C (TASC) has cast doubt on the job numbers. EDF
has already said that £14billion Sizewell C will be 20% cheaper to build
because Hinkley construction techniques will be mirrored, grid connections
are already available and it will use different finance models. However,
TASC fears this could mean a transfer of skills, with possibly a large part
of Hinkley C’s experienced workforce moving to Sizewell.

https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/sizewell-c-edf-energy-tasc-1-6159158

July 15, 2019 Posted by | employment, UK | Leave a comment

The nuclear toll on workers and communities – theme for June 19

McClatchy reports: 33,480 Americans dead after 70 years of atomic weaponry

“….. The number of deaths has never been disclosed by federal officials. It’s more than four times the number of American casualties in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it looms large as the nation prepares for its second nuclear age, with a $1 trillion plan to modernize its nuclear weapons over the next 30 years…..

A total of 107,394 workers have been diagnosed with cancers and other diseases after building the nation’s nuclear stockpile over the last seven decades. The project includes an interactive database that offers details on all 107,394 workers.

McClatchy’s yearlong investigation, set in 10 states, puts readers in the living rooms of sick workers in South Carolina, on a picket line in Texas and at a cemetery in Tennessee…..

— Federal officials greatly underestimated how sick the U.S. nuclear workforce would become. At first, the government predicted the compensation program would serve only 3,000 people at an annual cost of $120 million. Fourteen years later, taxpayers have spent sevenfold that estimate, $12 billion.

— Even though costs have ballooned, federal records show that fewer than half of those workers who sought help had their claims approved by the U.S. Department of Labor.

— Despite the cancers and other illnesses among nuclear works, the government now wants to save money by cutting current employees’ health plans, retirement benefits and sick leave….. … https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article49216310.html (photo: Ralph and Jodi Stanton)

Disastrous health effects of uranium mining, on the people of Jharkhand, India

the financial benefits are meaningless when weighed against what his group says is an alarming rise in stillbirths, birth defects, and adults and children diagnosed with cancer, kidney disease, and tuberculosis.

report showed a far greater incidence of congenital abnormality, sterility, and cancer among people living within 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) of the mines than those living 35 kilometres away. Mothers in villages close to the mine sites were also twice as likely to have a child with congenital deformities, …. us”…http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i1G4YWJkajit3t0xD2ddl4UXwN7g?docId=CNG.5b3137d37ca033f82d1946db0c21911c.951

June 8, 2019 Posted by | Christina's themes, employment | 6 Comments

New research into plutonium workers’ internal radiation exposure.

May 23, 2019 Posted by | - plutonium, employment, Reference, UK | 1 Comment

Illness and death legacy of employment in America’s nuclear weapons business

Government workers were kept in the dark about their toxic workplace
As US modernizes its nuclear weapons, NCR looks at the legacy of one Cold War-era plant,
National Catholic Reporter, May 20, 2019 by Claire Schaeffer-Duffy   

May 21, 2019 Posted by | employment, health, Reference, USA, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Exploitation of foreign workers in Japan’s Fukushima nuclear clean-up

Japan needs thousands of foreign workers to decommission Fukushima plant, prompting backlash from anti-nuke campaigners and rights activists, SCMP  Julian Ryall , 26 Apr, 2019

Activists are not convinced working at the site is safe for anyone and they fear foreign workers will feel ‘pressured’ to ignore risks if jobs are at risk
Towns and villages around the plant are still out of bounds because radiation levels are dangerously high

Anti-nuclear campaigners have teamed up with human rights activists in Japan to condemn plans by the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to hire foreign workers to help decommission the facility.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) has announced it will take advantage of the government’s new working visa scheme, which was introduced on April 1 and permits thousands of foreign workers to come to Japan to meet soaring demand for labourers. The company has informed subcontractors overseas nationals will be eligible to work cleaning up the site and providing food services.

About 4,000 people work at the plant each day as experts attempt to decommission three reactors that melted down in the aftermath of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the huge tsunami it triggered. Towns and villages around the plant are still out of bounds because radiation levels are dangerously high.

TEPCO has stated foreign workers employed at the site must have Japanese language skills sufficient for them to understand instructions and the risks they face. Workers will also be required to carry dosimeters to monitor their exposure to radiation.

Activists are far from convinced working at the site is safe for anyone and they fear foreign workers will feel “pressured” to ignore the risks if their jobs are at risk.

“We are strongly opposed to the plan because we have already seen that workers at the plant are being exposed to high levels of radiation and there have been numerous breaches of labour standards regulations,” said Hajime Matsukubo, secretary general of the Tokyo-based Citizens’ Nuclear Information Centre. “Conditions for foreign workers at many companies across Japan are already bad but it will almost certainly be worse if they are required to work decontaminating a nuclear accident site.”

Companies are desperately short of labourers, in part because of the construction work connected to Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympic Games, while TEPCO is further hampered because any worker who has been exposed to 50 millisieverts of radiation in a single year or 100 millisieverts over five years is not permitted to remain at the plant. Those limits mean the company must find labourers from a shrinking pool.

In February, the Tokyo branch of Human Rights Now submitted a statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva demanding action be taken to help and protect people with homes near the plant and workers at the site.

“It has been reported that vulnerable people have been illegally deceived by decontamination contractors into conducting decontamination work without their informed consent, threatening their lives, including asylum seekers under false promises and homeless people working below minimum wage,” the statement said. “Much clean-up depends on inexperienced subcontractors with little scrutiny as the government rushes decontamination for the Olympic Games.”

Cade Moseley, an official of the organisation, said there are “very clear, very definite concerns”.

“There is evidence that foreign workers in Japan have already felt under pressure to do work that is unsafe and where they do not fully understand the risks involved simply because they are worried they will lose their working visas if they refuse,” he said……

https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/3007772/japan-needs-thousands-foreign-workers-decommission-fukushima

April 30, 2019 Posted by | civil liberties, employment, Japan, politics, wastes | Leave a comment

Life as a liquidator after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster

 

Hard duty in the Chernobyl zone,  Life as a liquidator after the 1986 nuclear disaster

Cathie Sullivan, a New Mexico activist, worked with Chernobyl liquidator, Natalia Manzurova, during three trips to the former Soviet Union in the early 2000s. Natalia was one of 750,000 Soviet citizens sent to deal with the Chernobyl catastrophe. Natalia is now in her early 60s and has long struggled with multiple health issues. She was treated last year for a brain tumor that was found to be cancerous. A second tumor has since been found and funds were recently raised among activists around the world to help with the costs of this latest treatment. Natalia and Cathie together authored a short book, “Hard Duty, A woman’s experience at Chernobyl” describing Natalia’s harrowing four and a half years as a Chernobyl liquidator. What follows is an excerpt from that book with some minor edits.

By Natalia Manzurova

When I tell people that I was at Chernobyl they often ask if I had to go. My training is in radiation biology and I was born in a city that was part of the secret Soviet nuclear weapons complex, much like Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the first A-bomb was built. People from my city considered it a duty to go to Chernobyl, just as New York City firefighters went to the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Because of the radiation danger to women of child-bearing age, those under 30 did not go, but being 35 in 1987, I began my 4.5 years of work at Chernobyl. ………..

Sad experiences

In 1987, when I first arrived at Chernobyl, my group of about 20 scientists from the Ozyersk radio-ecology lab started a Department of Environmental Decontamination and Re-Cultivation. We used a 10-acre greenhouse complex for our plant studies, built before the accident, and for office space we used an empty, nearby kindergarten……..

Like many liquidators I ‘wear’ a ‘Chernobyl necklace’, the scar on the lower throat from thyroid-gland surgery.* While working in the exclusion zone I experienced slurred speech, memory loss and poor balance. One of my bosses and I realized that we were forgetting appointments and obligations and agreed to help each other remember who, what, where and when. I had severe amnesia for a time and read letters I wrote my mother to help fill in forgotten years.

The Chernobyl accident is not over, in fact its damaging effects on people and the land will only taper off slowly for generations—lingering harm that is almost certainly unique to nuclear accidents.

Natalia Manzurova, with fellow Russian activist, Nadezhda Kutepova, was awarded the 2011 Nuclear-Free Future Award in the category of Resistance.

Print copies of Hard Copy are available from Cathie Sullivan. Please email her at: cathiesullivan100@gmail.com. more  https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2019/04/21/hard-duty-in-the-chernobyl-zone/

April 22, 2019 Posted by | employment, PERSONAL STORIES, social effects, Ukraine | Leave a comment

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.

April 13, 2019 Posted by | employment, health, USA | Leave a comment

Fluor lays off nuclear workers – those involved in the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project

Fluor Idaho to layoff up to 190 workers, By RYAN SUPPE rsuppe@postregister.com, Apr 9, 2019 

    • As the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project begins to wind down operations, Fluor Idaho told employees Monday it will lay off up to 190 workers in fiscal year 2019.

The Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project, located at the U.S. Department of Energy’s desert site west of Idaho Falls, processes old transuranic waste that is then shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, N.M., for permanent storage.

The DOE announced last year that it will close the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project this year.

Amid suggestions that the site could process waste from other nuclear sites, such as Washington state’s Hanford Site, DOE officials decided it would not be cost effective to keep the project running………

The majority of layoffs will come to workers involved with the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project. Although, workers throughout Fluor Idaho could be susceptible. ……..https://www.postregister.com/news/government/fluor-idaho-to-layoff-up-to-workers/article_30782078-61c2-53dc-a270-6e087da3d9ff.html

April 11, 2019 Posted by | employment, technology | Leave a comment

UK Nuclear workers vote to strike over pay

Nuclear workers vote to strike over pay, David McPhee,    https://www.energyvoice.com/other-news/196648/nuclear-workers-vote-to-strike-over-pay/    Workers including security guards at an airport and nuclear site have voted to take industrial action in separate disputes over pay and other issues.

Members of the Unite union employed by Mitie at London City Airport and the

Sellafield reprocessing site in Cumbria voted heavily in favour of action.

Security guards, catering staff and other workers at Sellafied will stage a series of strikes from April 19 to 29 and from May 4 to 13 as well as banning overtime.

Unite said its members at the airport, including security guards and staff helping passengers with mobility issues, will also be taking industrial action.

Unite regional officer Michelle Cook said: “Mitie is treating its workforce with complete contempt. Workers are being subjected to low pay and third rate conditions.

“Mitie is drinking in the last chance saloon and if it wants to avoid industrial action they need to immediately enter into meaningful negotiations and properly address the workers concerns.”

April 9, 2019 Posted by | employment, UK | Leave a comment

USA Nuclear Workers Compensation deliberately dragging out process?

Lawsuit filed on behalf of nuclear workers   https://www.abqjournal.com/1299172/lawsuit-filed-on-behalf-of-nuclear-workers.html, BY SCOTT TURNER / JOURNAL STAFF WRITER April 2nd, 2019   ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — James Jaramillo and Harold Archuleta are used to having to navigate through government bureaucracy to receive compensation for illnesses they said were caused by radiation exposure during their days as employees at Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Both men had to wait years after filing claims for compensation through the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program.

Jaramillo, 65, worked at Sandia for 24 years. He found out he had cancer of the small intestine in 1998. He filed for compensation in 2003 but was originally denied. Through changes in the program, he was finally awarded compensation in 2012 for medical care and lost wages since he was forced to retire.

Archuleta, 80, worked 38 years, 35 full time, at Los Alamos, where, he said, he ended up with skin cancer after years of exposure to plutonium. He’s also received compensation, but his wife, Angie, said it wasn’t an easy process.

“Congress put forth this act to help them, but then when it comes to actually paying, they put up all of these barriers,” Angie Archuleta said. “It’s just been very frustrating.”

According to a release by the Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, changes are being made next week to update some of the regulations, with the goal of increasing efficiency and transparency and reducing administrative costs. The rules would align the regulations regarding processing and paying medical bills with the current system Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs uses to pay medical bills, and set out a new process that the office will use for authorizing in-home health care that will enable the office to better provide its beneficiaries with appropriate care, according to the release.

However, a company that provides health care to workers such as Jaramillo and Archuleta says rule changes involving the program could make it harder for nuclear workers to receive compensation and could delay the medical treatment they need.

The company, Professional Case Management, has filed suit in the District Court of Colorado against the Labor Department to keep the changes to the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program from taking effect. Professional Case Management Vice President Tim Lerew said the new changes could cause delays of 60 days or more in treatment.

“It’s hard to know how long those delays will be,” Lerew said at a town hall meeting in Albuquerque last week. “We estimate it will be about an additional 60 days. For some people, coming out of the hospital with particular illnesses where doctors want them to have additional care … they don’t have that time to wait.”

Lerew said the new rule changes will also add 36 steps to the process between the patient, the doctor and the Labor Department to get pre-authorization for treatment and services, such as home health care.

“If they have you jump through 36 more hoops, how is a guy supposed to do that?” Jaramillo asked.

The rule changes would require patients to fill out most of the paperwork. In the past, health care providers would fill out the majority of it, Lerew and Jaramillo said.

“If you don’t dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t,’ they deny you,” said Jaramillo’s wife, Terry.

“Nurses take all your vitals and with the doctor come up with your plan, and send to the Department of Labor for approval,” James Jaramillo said. “Now, they want the patients to fill out a lot of the paperwork and submit it themselves, and not let medical people get involved with that.”

Lerew said he wondered how a cancer-stricken person in his or her 80s “is successfully going to  navigate that process.”

April 4, 2019 Posted by | employment, health, legal, USA | Leave a comment

Denver-based Professional Case Management suing federal govt over delaying process in nuclear workers’ access to care

Denver company sues over changes to nuclear workers’ access to care  https://kdvr.com/2019/03/30/denver-company-sues-over-changes-to-nuclear-workers-access-to-care/  MARCH 30, 2019, BY ALEX ROSE DENVER — Janet Cook worked in the lab at Rocky Flats for 17 years and is now dealing with a laundry list of health problems.

“I see doctors two, three times a week, most the time. That’s my job now, going to the doctor,” Cook said. “There’s like 62 diseases that I have. It’s unreal.”

She lost her hearing, part of her vision, had multiple surgeries and strokes, and is now worried about how she is going to pay for it all.

In 2001, the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act went into effect, allowing compensation for nuclear workers facing certain health issues. Cook has been filing claims through a division of the Department of Labor since that time, but says the process was long, stressful and lacked communication.

Cook reached out to Denver-based Professional Case Management to help with in-home health care. They provide services for nuclear workers and founded the Cold War Patriots, which advocates for workers.

Oftentimes, they didn’t know that the work they were doing was so dangerous and [so] harmful to their health,” said PCM president Greg Austin.

PCM is now suing the federal government over rule changes set to take effect April 9, saying they violate constitutional rights, among other legal issues.

“Under the new rules, there’s a lengthy, roughly 36-step process that involves filling out forms, mailing them back and forth, before that care can start,” Austin said.

“Program that takes years to get compensation, they want us to die before they pay us?” Cook said.

The Problem Solvers reached out to the Department of Labor for comment about why the rule changes were necessary and was referred to OSHA, but have yet to hear back.

Austin says the process could take former workers more than 60 days just to file a claim.

A judge will hear arguments in federal court in Denver on April 4 to determine whether the rule changes should stay or go.

April 1, 2019 Posted by | employment, health, Legal, USA | Leave a comment