Medical experts call for independent oversight in nuke worker program
Posted by defensebaseactcomp on July 12, 2010
Though multiple doctors weigh in, an administrator makes final medical decisions on sick nuke worker’s claim
Imagine being sent to get a second medical opinion about your fatal lung disease from the same doctor you went to the first time. Then imagine having the differences of opinion between multiple doctors about your fatal condition resolved by someone who is not a doctor.
Administrator as medical referee
This April, two years after his death, the EEOICP has rendered a final decision to close Michael’s claim for good, unless more new medical evidence can be found.
“Upon review of the objections and the evidence on file, I find that the case is not in a posture for reopening at this time,” stated Rachel Leiton in her letter of final denial to Mrs. Fellinger dated April 22. “Should you or your doctor have viable medical evidence of a convincing and compelling nature that contradicts the findings in this case, the DEEOIC will reconsider its position.”
The problem, according to several medical experts, is that Leiton isn’t a physician. She is a high-level administrative director in the Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs, overseeing the EEOICP.
While a medical decision would be more appropriately rendered by a medical director, the EEOICP hasn’t had one since the departure of Eugene Schwartz, who resigned his position last year. In piece published by ProPublica last August, Schwartz told the media he had been “muzzled,” and said he had warned the Department of Labor that it is ignoring established medical knowledge about the dangers of bomb work.
Dr. Laurence Fuortes, director of the Former Worker Medical Screening Program at the University of Iowa and the advocate for Michael Fellinger’s claim, said he is deeply troubled that an administrator is assuming the authority of a medical referee.
“They are defending the Department of Labor process rather than a rationalized medical opinion,” he said.
According to the Department of Labor, Leiton is not rendering final medical oversight, and it expects to name a new medical director within weeks. The Labor department stressed that the system of independently contracted district medical consultants had been in place for years, with qualified medical specialists rendering medical findings based on the evidence submitted.