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Hanford workers’ comp program fails sick employees, report finds

A review from the Inspector General found the Hanford workers' compensation process was confusing for sick employees and the Department of Energy didn't have effective program procedures.
Credit: Jeff T. Green
Hanford nucler reservation in Richland, Wash. (Photo by Jeff T. Green/Getty Images)

An Inspector General’s report released Thursday found the Hanford Site doesn’t have effective processes, procedures, and controls over their workers’ compensation program.

The report found that the Department of Energy (DOE) didn’t ensure that Penser, the contractor that managed Hanford workers’ compensation claims, didn’t send complete workers’ comp claims to L&I, DOE was not billed for about $21.8 million in workers’ compensation pension benefits over the course of 16 years, and inadequate management of Penser’s claim recommendations.

“We observed that in four of five claims, there were lapses in the documentation provided to L&I by Penser,” the report read.

DOE canceled its contract with Penser last year.

The Inspector General also found there was a communication breakdown between workers, DOE officials, and its contractors.

“The challenges associated with communication are exacerbated by a fragmented Hanford Site Workers’ Compensation process that workers find confusing,” the report read.

Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray requested the Inspector General review workers’ compensation issues after a KING 5 investigation revealed sick Hanford workers were unfairly denied workers’ compensation claims.

A new resource center opened in May that aims to help sick Hanford workers get through the red tape associated with filing workers’ compensation claims.

The Inspector General’s office applauded the center but said there was still more to be done to improve the workers’ compensation process. Recommendations included creating plans to address contractual and financial concerns, operations of third-party administrators, and communication concerns.

Management agreed with the report’s findings and recommendations and said corrective action will be considered or underway, according to the Office of the Inspector General.

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