Helping LANL Workers Access Free Medical Care

by Staff Reporter / Aug 14, 2017 / comments

 

Image courtesy of PCM

Helping LANL Workers Access Free Medical Care

Staff Report

Working at a facility like Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and Sandia National Laboratories brings a lot of benefits and career satisfaction. These facilities support our regional economy and provide fulfilling career opportunities that would not be available in our region without them. Tens of thousands of northern New Mexicans benefit from these facilities every day.

Yet, these jobs are not without risk. Workers who spend years at certain jobs at these facilities may be exposed to hazardous chemicals or substances that can negatively affect their health later in life.

Several years ago, the Federal Government’s Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Labor realized that, although overall these jobs are safe, they could expose workers to risk. So they implemented a program to help workers and former workers who are facing health problems that may have been caused or aggravated by their work at these facilities.

Some workers or former employees at these facilities that are suffering from health conditions, ranging from cancer to hearing loss may be eligible for compensation and medical benefits under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICPA program) passed by Congress in July 2001. Locally, this includes not only direct LANL workers, but also contractors and subcontractors who were working on-site for a specific period of time. In addition, family members or survivors of workers who became ill may also be eligible for benefits.

Since 2001, thousands of individuals have sought assistance nationwide. According to the United States Department of Labor, to date there are 5,615 unique individual workers from LANL alone who have applied for benefits. But there are thousands of other LANL workers who are eligible who have not applied.

Donna Casados, a Regional Outreach Coordinator with Professional Case Management (PCM), an organization based in Santa Fe that currently is working with over 200 LANL employees receiving benefits explains “A lot of individuals withhold from filing claims because they think it is a lawsuit or is a negative claim against the laboratory. In reality this program is an agreement between DOL and the DOE facilities to ensure that their employees are taken care of. They are acknowledging working at these facilities may be risky and that’s why this program exists.”

Workers who qualify are eligible for free lifetime health care for their conditions and may be eligible for financial benefits as well. Beneficiaries pay no deductible or co-pays and there is no cap on benefits.

The company Casados works for, PCM, helps guide workers who think they may have a condition caused by their work at these facilities to determine if they qualify and then to navigate them to local resources to file their claims. Once benefits are determined, PCM helps facilitate any treatment plans, and if necessary bring home care professionals into their home to help them with their medical issues. PCM can also assist eligible individuals and their families to determine if they are eligible to receive financial compensation.

Eligible conditions include not only cancer, but other diseases that people would not think are work related but can be traced back to specific work assignments. Some of these include:

  • Several forms of cancer
  • Any neurological diseases like Parkinson's, PSP, neuropathy
  • Pulmonary conditions like asbestosis, occupational asthma, and COPD
  • kidney diseases
  • hearing loss (associated with exposure to certain solvents)
  • Cataracts
  • Skin conditions like dermatitis
  • respiratory and neurological conditions

If you or someone you know worked at LANL, Sandia or as a subcontractor at these facilities before 1995 and you think you may have a work related health condition, contact Donna Casados at PCM for help in applying for EEOICPA benefits at donna.casados@procasemanagement.com, or check out their website at www.procasemanagement.com.