Concerns about difficulties civilian employees of the U.S. government may have in obtaining workers' compensation benefits for medical conditions they developed as a result of their exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam led to GAO being asked to determine (1) what is known about the number of civilians who served in Vietnam, both those employed directly by the U.S. government and those employed by companies that contracted with the government; (2) what is known about the number, processing, and disposition of claims filed by these civilians; and (3) what options are available if Congress chooses to improve access to benefits for civilians exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam who developed illnesses as a result of their exposure, and what are their cost implications?
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Labor||1. To improve the handling of civilian Agent Orange claims, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs to assign a unique identifying code to Agent Orange claims and develop procedures to ensure that these claims are coded correctly.|
|Department of Labor||2. To improve the handling of civilian Agent Orange claims, the Secretary of Labor should provide better oversight of licensed Defense Base Act (DBA) insurance carriers by requiring the Office of Longshore and Harbor Workers to track the information it retains on licensed insurance carriers for Vietnam era employers in an easily searchable format, such as in an automated file, and track changes in ownership for each licensed carrier in order to be able to determine liability for payments.|
|Department of Labor||3. To improve the handling of civilian Agent Orange claims, the Secretary of Labor should direct the appropriate offices to provide contract employees with the information needed to file Agent Orange claims by taking such measures as posting information on Labor's Web sites or developing informational brochures that include information on how to file a claim under DBA, such as which forms to use, and information on Vietnam era contractors with the names of their insurance carriers licensed by Labor.|