A small group of unpaid advisers that helps the Department of Labor process medical reimbursement claims from workers sickened at Department of Energy nuclear sites remained idle Monday, about a month after the terms of most of its members expired.
The terms of all but one member of the agency’s Advisory Board on Toxic Substances and Worker Health expired Feb. 16. Only Faye Vlieger — a Washington-state-based advocate for workers at Department of Energy nuclear-weapon sites seeking payments from Labor’s Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program — remains with the board, according to the group’s website.
At the board’s latest meeting on Jan. 30, the group’s designated federal officer, Douglas Fitzgerald, said he had “been given no information” about when Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta would appoint new board members, or reappoint any members who had served prior to Feb. 16. That is a according to a transcript Labor posted online. Fitzgerald was detailed to the board from the department’s Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation.
The board by law may have up to 15 members at a time and must include experts from the scientific and medical fields, as well as representatives from the claimant community.
Then-President Barack Obama created the Advisory Board on Toxic Substances and Worker Health in June 2015, at Congress’ direction. The board is authorized through Dec. 19, 2024, meaning it will automatically disband after that, unless Congress acts. Lawmakers have already extended the board’s sunset date once; the group was originally disband in 2019.
The Department of Labor did not immediately reply to a request for comment Monday.