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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

OWCP ridicules injured workers

The article below from the Dayton Daily News documents the continuing shameful actions of those running OWCP whose contempt for injured workers continues to permeate and poison the adjudication of claims by OWCP employees. Unfortunately, OWCP fails to meet its responsibility to protect injured workers as its present mindset is to focus on its relationship with "stakeholders", a term that refers only to employing agencies and contractors. Injured workers seem to be far less important to OWCP than "stakeholders."

"Atomic workers ridiculed in training manual Labor info on handling illness claims filled with pop culture references."
Tom Beyerlein, Staff Writer
10:45 PM Sunday, September 25, 2011

DAYTON -- Advocates for atomic workers sickened by on-the-job radiation exposure at places like the Miamisburg Mound Plant say they're outraged by a training manual for a federal compensation program that refers to a hypothetical claimant as "Freddy Krueger," the name of a horror movie character whose face was badly burned. The undated Labor Department manual, used in training people who screen applicants for possible compensation and medical benefits, also refers to the pathologist in a hypothetical dead worker's case as the fictitious serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The manual's jocular attitude toward workers who have suffered from cancers and other serious illnesses is "indicative of the disrespect that's shown to claimants" by Labor Department officials, said worker advocate Deb Jerison of Yellow Springs, who heads a nonprofit that helps sick atomic workers and their survivors obtain federal benefits. Some of the workers have died from their illnesses. Labor officials did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.

The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program, administered by the Labor Department, provides medical benefits and compensation for sick atomic workers, if it is shown their illnesses were caused by occupational exposures. Workers suffering from cancers and some other illnesses known to be caused by radiation exposures can receive lump-sum payments, as can certain survivors.

For decades, the Energy Department claimed that none of its workers was sickened by radioactive exposures. Since the program was established in 2001, it has paid $7.4 billion in compensation and doctor bills for more than 86,000 claimants.

Jerison obtained the manual in a Freedom of Information Act request to Labor and found it riddled with pop-culture references. "None of the (hypothetical) claims examiners had names like this. It was like 'Jane Doe.' Bland names, which is appropriate (for the tone of a training manual)," said Jerison, whose father, Mound physicist James Goode, died in 1960 at age 36. After a six-year process, Jerison helped her mother win survivor benefits, but her mother died in 2008 before the money arrived.

In a letter to Labor officials, chemist David Manuta of Waverly, a member of the Alliance of Nuclear Worker Advocacy Groups, called the humor "examples of (a) history of disrespect" for applicants.

Manuta also criticized the "shameful comments" in May of program Director Rachel Leiton, who, according to a meeting transcript, told an advisory board that sick workers couldn't be trusted to tell the truth in affidavits about their work history at atomic plants. Many cases involve decades-ago employment for which records are hard to find.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

OSHA finds that USPS management ignores hazards and injuries

A recent news article from the APWU contains important information for USPS workers who have OWCP claims arising from injuries caused by DBCS machines. The full article, which has embedded links to the documents referenced in the article, can be found at the APWU website at the following link:

OSHA determined that Delivery Bar Code Sorter machines pose a direct risk to workers’ health, and that there is a “general lack of understanding about the hazards and injuries” associated with the equipment among postal managers. OSHA also reported that supervisors have ignored injury complaints; encouraged clerks to “work through” the pain, or have discouraged the reporting of injuries. “This fosters a perceived ‘lack of caring’ about the worker,” the agency reported.

If you are pursuing a FECA claim with OWCP with regard to repetitive motion injuries arising from using DBCS machines, you should read through the materials posted by APWU.