“We had no idea, none whatsoever, of what we were working with,” said Vincent, former Department of Energy (DOE) worker, and WWII veteran. In his first 20 years of employment with the DOE, Vincent worked as a laboratory glass blower at General Electric in Syracuse, New York. He was later transferred to the Pinellas Plant in Largo, Florida, where he worked for approximately 10 years until 1969, when he was called into ministry.
Vince is now suffering from severe carcinoma due to the radiation exposure he experienced in his work at the DOE sites. He has endured multiple surgeries to remove spots of skin cancer on his back, legs, ears, eyebrows, face, and more. Sadly, the cancer has persisted and continues to spread all over his body.
Since 2009 Vincent and his wife Ruth have been desperately fighting to obtain Vince’s medical benefits through the Department of Labor’s Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICPA). Vincent heard about the EEOICPA on television one day, and began working with the Department of Labor Resource Center in Jacksonville, Florida when he first filed his claim in 2009. He had a negative experience working with the Jacksonville Resource Center after they continually neglected to respond back to him regarding his compensation. After some time, amid his frustration, he was referred to a resource center in Kentucky, where he had a better experience and eventually did receive his DOL Medical Benefits White Card and some compensation. Vincent and his wife used this money to build a home in Louisiana after she had previously lost everything in Hurricane Rita.
The two continued their lives in Louisiana, both active members of their church, while Vincent battled his skin cancer and fought for his medical benefits. His skin cancer surgeries, treatments and radiation continued to add up, as he and Ruth were paying for nearly everything out of their pocket. Not to mention the skin cancer removal surgeries left Vince with extreme facial disfigurement.
From 2009 until 2012 he never heard back from the Department of Labor. Finally, in 2012 he heard back and was given a phone number for a man at the Jacksonville Resource Center. Vincent was reluctant to call, but eventually did and experienced a phone call that he would never forget. “I talked to this man and I tell you what, he made me feel as if I was cheating the government. He made me feel so bad I told my wife, ‘that’s it, I have no one else to go to so I’m dropping the whole thing’,” Vincent said. Ruth remembers, “I’ll never forget when that man made him feel that way. He got off the phone and was crying.”
To date, the DOL has not covered any medical expenses for any of Vince’s surgeries, radiation treatments, or post-operative care. In addition to the financial burden, Ruth and Vincent continue to struggle in finding physicians who will take his White Card because all of them have told the couple that it takes the DOL years to pay them back and that they cannot take on that kind of debt. “We’re not out here trying to get rich. All we’re trying to do is take care of Vince,” Ruth said.
After the phone call with the man from the Jacksonville Resource Center, Vincent completely gave up on getting help, but Ruth told him, “lets pray and if there’s a way, a door will be opened for us.” Ruth emotionally stated that after nearly seven years, “that door opened for us on June 10th, 2019 when we received a card in the mail from Nuclear Care Partners.” The postcard, an informational mailer sent to encourage former workers to reach out to Nuclear Care Partners for benefits guidance, found them at a hopeless, yet perfect time. Ruth told her husband, “Vince, you know we’ve been praying for years that some way, somehow we could get help. Maybe this is the answer.” Vincent wanted no part in it, but gave Ruth his permission to call, and a journey of hope ensued.
Ruth was connected with Lori Shanks, local Community Outreach Manager and Benefits Specialist for Nuclear Care Partners. Lori told Ruth about the benefits Vincent could qualify for, signed him up as a patient, got him a new DOL White Card, and scheduled his first impairment rating. It was the beginning of Vince’s journey to finally receiving the benefits he so deserves. Ruth mentioned, “the other day his doctor told him, ‘When I first saw you I couldn’t see any hope in your eyes, but I truly see hope now in your face.’”
“Nuclear Care Partners has been a blessing to us. We feel so good knowing we are finally being heard,” Ruth said. “We’ve never had an experience like this.” Vincent chimed in, “I know that I am blessed and thank God you found us.”