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Many AR’s are also volunteer Advocates. However, not all Advocates assume the role or responsibility of an AR. Both are dedicated, and routinely work together to benefit EEOICPA claimants at large, rather than limiting our efforts to the individual claimants we represent. AR’s and Advocates support open dialogue and productive, professional relationships with agencies that administer EEOICPA, and with each other.
Most AR’s and Advocates put in a significant amount of volunteer time at our own expense, and frequently travel across the country to participate in meetings where EEOICPA policy and administration are addressed by program administrators and representatives of Department of Labor (DOL), Department of Energy (DOE), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health (ABRWH) and the Advisory Board on Toxic Substances and Worker Health (ABTSWH), which Advocates and AR’s worked together to see created. In some instances, an AR / Advocate may even voluntarily serve on an advisory board, to effectively represent the claimant, worker, and advocate community.
Worthwhile ARs/Advocates don’t waste time competing with each other. Instead, we pool our collective resources for the purpose of helping each other help EEOICPA claimants. We’ve been known to rally together to ensure a particular AR/Advocate can cover travel expenses to a particular meeting, if an important topic involving the AR/Advocate is on the agenda. ARs / Advocates help each other research, locate, and scan documents from various databases stored in remote locations. We school each other on policy, legislative nuance, site history, job process specifics, epidemiological and toxicological study, and write reports for evaluation by program administrators that can help to improve EEOICPA.
AR’s/Advocates are in the unique position to witness EEOICPA’s function from every perspective. Our involvement with the federal agencies tasked with the program’s administration has familiarized us with big-picture concerns that are required to make a program function, but our one-on-one interaction with claimants and their families allow us to see how policy directly impacts individuals, enabling us to bring our observations to DEEOIC for review and consideration.
AR’s/Advocates come from a variety of backgrounds, and many were introduced to EEOICPA by virtue of assisting a loved one with the program. Some of us are former workers. Some have backgrounds in law, science, and medicine. Still others bring particular or specialized knowledge about various facilities or worksites covered by EEOICPA, or health conditions common to nuclear workers. Together, we embody a formidable collective of resourcefulness and dedication. There is always work to do, and we are passionately driven by this purpose.
There are many AR’s / Advocates from which to choose, in the event your need for assistance surpasses what the Resource Center can provide. A worthwhile AR / Advocate will spend time ensuring that you are comfortable with their level of involvement; be articulate and interested in your particular situation; and will provide positive feedback about which resources might provide you with the kind of help you seek.
It is a privilege to assist nuclear and aerospace personnel and their families under EEOICPA. Please contact CORE Advocacy if we can provide additional information, or visit our Links page to connect directly to the DOL Resource Center, or a variety of other resources.
DOL Resource Centers provide valuable, but limited assistance. Situated in key geographic locations throughout the U.S., they provide information and can assist EEOICPA claimants, free of charge.
While the Resource Center can help claimants fill out claim forms (by filling out forms for you in person or over the phone), assist in the initial filing of a claim (by telling you what evidence you will need to provide), begin the employment verification process (at the request of the Claims Examiner at DOL), and help with some basic claim development, the Resource Center does not provide adjudicatory functions and is prohibited from advocating on behalf of a claimant.
Given these limitations, the Resource Center is likely to be particularly helpful to those claimants with “straightforward” cases, and claimants prepared to manage their own claims, who can meet the demands of DOL within the required time frames.
If you are contacted by the Resource Center and have already appointed an Authorized Representative (AR) to handle your case, it is in your best interest to refrain from answering any questions. Simply refer the Resource Center to the AR by providing the AR's phone number. The AR will work with the Resource Center to set up a conference call, wherein your Work History Interview can take place. You will have an opportunity to share details about your employment, with the assistance of your AR.
Remember: You have hired your AR to represent you. Your AR likely has information about your work site that you do not have. Together, you can provide the Resource Center with accurate and detailed information, and you will be represented by a knowledgeable advocate.
Assistance is Available for EEOICPA Claimants
Advocates provide services free-of-charge, but are legally limited in their degree of involvement and participation in the claims process. As a general rule, an Advocate can provide valuable guidance “from the sidelines,” like performing research for claimants (historical facility research, database research, and reviewing scientific reports that establish causal links between certain exposures and diseases). Advocates' knowledge of EEOICPA, ability to strategize, and ability to provide information and documentation on a wealth of relevant topics provide a crucial service to EEOICPA claimants. The value and dedication of an Advocate cannot be understated, and they routinely spend long hours reviewing cases brought to them by claimants who need help. Some Advocates also provide Authorized Representation, serving as AR's. In addition, Advocates and AR's frequently work together in many ways, as described below.
Because Advocates are kept from directly participating in the adjudicatory process, they cannot manage the claim on behalf of a claimant. The claimant is still responsible for fulfilling the burden of proof, and must meet DOL's demands within the required time frames. Advocates can be particularly helpful to those claimants who are capable of managing their own claims and applying the guidance provided by an Advocate, who coaches from the periphery.
Advocates do not limit their advocacy to individual claimants, but rather routinely work to help claimants at large by attending and participating in meetings across the country, commenting on policy, interacting with program administrators, Congress, and the press. Their ability to network from within an established collective of effective Advocates / AR's nationwide provides claimants with not only one "Advocate," but access to a formidable network of well-researched, dedicated individuals whose knowledge of EEOICPA and access to information can make the difference between a denied claim, verses an approved claim.
Under 7385(g), the AR is permitted to charge a limited fee if the claim is accepted. The fee is restricted under the legislation, and may not exceed 2%, 10% or 12%. The fee is determined by the claim’s difficulty, and adjudicatory criteria. If the claim is not accepted, there is no fee.
The fee restrictions ensure that AR’s cannot charge claimants unreasonable fees. AR’s commit to cases that may last years with no guarantee of a favorable outcome. Additionally, because complex cases can be time consuming, most AR’s are unable to carry a high-volume caseload that would be required to “turn a profit.” The exception may be those AR’s who do not accept complicated cases (enabling them to maintain a caseload of more, simpler cases that resolve more quickly), and those with a dedicated staff capable of managing a high volume caseload (i.e. attorneys).
Usually, AR’s maintain a reasonable caseload of claims of varying complexity and uncertainty. Usually, when a claim is accepted, the fees that are generated fund some recuperation of expenses and enable the AR to continue their efforts to help more claimants. In addition, what the AR learns from your case will undoubtedly be applied to help more claimants who have difficulty.
DOL does not take the role or responsibility of an AR lightly, and imposes strict regulatory rules created to protect the claimant from unscrupulous or predatory practices. The rules were designed to ensure that an AR works in the claimant’s best interest, and that is why the fee limitation is strictly enforced. Additionally, the AR is expected to abide by rules set forth under EEOICPA, the Privacy Act, and HIPAA, as well as established Conflict of Interest (COI) policy. If DOL suspects conflicting interests, violations of the rules and regulations, or unethical conduct by an AR, DOL may revoke an AR’s appointment to protect the claimant.
It is not uncommon for a claimant to be unaware that a problem has developed until they receive a Recommended Decision to deny the claim. At that point, the claimant usually has 60 days to object to the Recommended Decision, and to provide new information that could resolve the issue and/or potentially change the impending outcome. It’s common for a claimant to feel overwhelmed, and to seek assistance at this stage (or at any stage) of the claims process.
The information below provides a description of the types of help available, and the benefits verses limitations of each. In addition, CORE Advocacy provides some detail about the frequently overlapping role of Advocates and Authorized Representatives (AR’s), and how we work together to serve EEOICPA claimants.
Not every EEOICPA claimant will need help navigating the claims process. But, if a claimant discovers a need for general guidance, advocacy, or representation by an authorized individual, many choices are available at any phase of the claims process; even after a case has been closed by Final Decision. Understanding the role of Authorized Representatives (ARs), Advocates, and the Department of Labor (DOL) Resource Center will enable you to make an informed decision, if and when you choose to seek assistance.
Why Might a Claimant Seek Assistance?
Every claim is unique. It is not always possible to determine in advance whether a claim will be “easy” or “difficult,” and there are frequently surprises during the claims process. Difficulties that arise can effectively derail a claim, and result in a denial by Final Decision that the claimant feels was inappropriate. While some seemingly straightforward claims can conclude in a matter of months, there are no guarantees; some claims can become mired by unforeseen difficulties and take years to resolve, with variable outcome.
Under EEOICPA, it is the claimant’s responsibility to establish eligibility and covered employment, exposure to radiation and/or toxic substances, provide proof of a diagnosis with a covered condition, and to provide scientific evidence linking the diagnosis to exposure. The claimant is typically required to meet these demands within a series of established deadlines imposed by DOL.
Under 20 C.F.R. § 30.600 and 30.601, a claimant can authorize an individual (who is not otherwise prohibited by law) to represent him or her under EEOICPA. There is no requirement for the chosen individual to be an attorney, or to hold any credential. The chosen person appointed by the claimant is considered to be the “Authorized Representative” (AR). In many instances, AR's are also Advocates; their latitude to involve themselves in the claims process is much more expansive - and they take on a level of responsibility in agreeing to the appointment of AR.
The AR assumes the responsibility of managing the claim on behalf of the claimant. A properly appointed AR has the authority, to the same extent as the claimant, to receive and respond to correspondence from DOL or other government agencies related to the claim. In addition, the AR may seek or present evidence; request information from the case file; obtain records under the Privacy Act or Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); communicate directly with the Claims Examiner (CE) throughout the claim’s development and adjudication; interact with the claimant, co-workers, and medical team; argue factual and legal issues; directly advocate for the claimant; object to Recommended Decisions; represent the claimant at a hearing with the Final Adjudication Branch (FAB) when a claim is recommended for denial; argue for reconsideration or reopening of a claim after Final Decision; and exercise appeal rights pertaining to a claim while it is under the jurisdiction of Division of Energy Employee Occupational Illness Compensation (DEEOIC).
AR’s bring experience from past cases, and expertise about the program, to each situation. Like Advocates, AR’s are usually well-versed in research strategy and have access to valuable resources required to obtain timely and relevant information that can be crucial to a claim’s outcome. Unlike Advocates, the AR has the authority to present the information at various points of the claim’s process, and to draw from the evidence during factual and legal argument on the claimant’s behalf.
AR’s are particularly helpful to those claimants who simply do not want to deal with managing their EEOICPA claims, those claimants with particularly complex cases that directly benefit from a level of expertise and advocacy, and those claimants who are not capable of meeting the demands placed upon them by DOL, for whatever reason.
-- Samantha Power