Whistleblower: Labor Dept. Officials Intentionally Denied or Delayed Pay-Outs to Nuclear Workers in Hopes They Would Die

Government attorney who raised red flags said Perez, other Obama officials ignored his complaints about hostility toward nuclear-worker claims
by Susan Crabtree

Free Beacon
Jul. 21, 2017

A senior attorney at the Labor Department is accusing 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, says Labor Department leadership under former Labor Secretary Tom Perez 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.

When Congress passed the law creating the compensation program in 2000, a bipartisan group of lawmakers promised these nuclear workers a claimant-friendly path to compensating them or their families for illnesses related to the country's nuclear build-up and their exposure to toxins at bombing-making facilities.

Under the law, the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA), qualified workers or their survivors who were diagnosed with certain types of cancer or other diseases from exposure to toxic substances at covered facilities are entitled to between tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation to help pay medical bills and loss of wages due to their illnesses, with a cap of $400,000.

However, Silbiger and other critics say government officials often purposely thwarted workers' attempts to seek the compensation by writing regulations that made qualification much more stringent than Congress intended, failing to disclose all the application rules, changing eligibility rules midstream, and delaying compensation for years until the sick workers died.

"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," Silbiger told the Washington Free Beacon in his first public complaint about the program's administrators.

"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," Silbiger told the Washington Free Beacon in his first public complaint about the program's administrators.

Silbiger says the problems with the compensation program parallel some of those at the heart of decades of Veterans Affairs Department corruption and abuse.

"The problem in the VA is that nobody would confront these people [poorly administrating the VA medical service]—it's very similar," he said. "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."

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