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Ask the Experts: Impairment Ratings

Written by Laura Welsh, Benefits Specialist with Nuclear Care Partners

A Word from Laura

When I’m assisting former Department of Energy workers to maximize their EEOICPA benefits, one of the questions I commonly ask is “when was your last Impairment Rating?” Many workers have either never heard of an Impairment Rating or reflexively say, “I’m not impaired,” confusing “impairment” with “disability.”

It’s important to understand how the Department of Labor defines impairment, which is covered under Part E of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act:

What is Impairment?

An impairment is defined as any loss or abnormality of an anatomical structure or function or a decrease in the functioning of an extremity, other body parts, or organs. It’s expressed as either a percentage of impairment of the extremity or of the body as a whole.

For example, someone who has had skin cancer removed from their face and is left with a disfiguring scar has an impairment that has altered their anatomy (face) and may also have an abnormality (disfigurement). Because cancer and the treatments have altered a body part, it is considered an impairment because the body has been affected by the cancer and the treatment.

Another example: a breast cancer survivor had a double mastectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy treatments and is now cancer-free. The removal of her breasts is an impairment to her whole body. Any damage to her tissues or nervous system (neuropathy, lymphedema) due to the chemotherapy and radiation treatments is also an impairment to her extremities. Because the damage resulted in a restriction of movement, this is also considered an impairment.

In both of these examples, the people may feel well and are currently back to their normal activities. However, because their body suffered an impairing factor, they may be eligible to receive impairment compensation through Part E of the EEOICPA.

Who can Request an Impairment Rating?

Former employees of the Department of Energy, contractors and subcontractors who develop an illness due to exposure to toxic substances at certain DOE facilities may be eligible. Additionally, uranium miners, millers and ore transporters are also eligible for benefits if they develop an illness as a result of toxic exposure and worked at a facility covered under Section 5 of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). A toxic substance is not limited to radiation but includes things such as chemicals, solvents, acids and metals.

Before your impairment rating can be performed, you must have an approved claim with the U.S. Department of Labor. Ask your local NCP Benefits Specialist how to file an initial claim or an impairment claim as we are happy to help guide you!

Who can Prepare Impairment Ratings?

The physician who prepares an Impairment Rating must be Board-certified and trained as well as certified to perform impairment ratings using the AMA’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, or experienced in using the Guides.

The Department of Labor doesn’t reimburse the cost of impairment ratings with unqualified physicians.

Nuclear Care Partners highly recommends Drs. Meals and Tolar, to perform your Impairment Rating. As the nation’s premier provider of EEOICPA Impairment Ratings, the physicians at Dr. Meals and Tolar will ensure that your rating is done thoroughly. In many cases, Drs. Meals and Tolar will also uncover other illnesses that may be claimed in order to maximize your benefits.

For an impairment claim, you will be asked to provide a record of your “Activities of Daily Living.” Drs. Meals and Tolar will assist you in filling this form out and will also ask for the latest medical records for your approved illnesses. After speaking with you and reviewing your medical records, the doctor will then write a comprehensive Impairment Rating and submit it to the Dept. of Labor.

How Much is the Impairment Rating

Part E of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Plan provides qualified claimants with $2,500 for every 1% of whole-body impairment.

Impairment ratings may be re-evaluated every two years—or sooner if a new covered condition has been added to your DOL White Card.

Who to Call for Assistance?

To get connected with your EEOICPA benefits, Impairment Ratings or to have other questions answered, call 888.525.5111 and ask to speak with your local Nuclear Care Partners Benefits Specialist.