Letters: Former uranium workers do not have out-of-pocket costs

I am writing this letter so that former uranium workers who are covered for medical benefits under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (aka the act) will be made aware of possible fraudulent money activity made by medical supply companies throughout the United States. These medical supply companies may contract with the EEOICPA (the act).

I will write about my experience while I was working on obtaining a lift chair for my father through the Frontier company, which led me to converse with my father’s claim examiner at the Denver EEOICPA office about the issue.

Based on my father’s EEOICPA claim examiner statements made at that time, it appears there was a contract or agreement between the EEOICPA and the Frontier company.

My father worked in the uranium industry as a miller for approximately 20 years, mainly at the Moab, Utah, site. As a result, his health was compromised.

Back in 2003, he asked for my assistance in filing a Radiation Exposure Compensation Act claim. He did not wish to hire an attorney. He declined to utilize the Office of Navajo Uranium Workers office. We presented a lot of questions to the Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program (505-368-7032), located in Shiprock. Thank you to the Shiprock RESEP personnel for their competent and professional service. They were of tremendous assistance throughout the years when we had questions about RECA.

Due to working with uranium as a miller, my father became ill with pulmonary fibrosis, fibrosis of the lung, silicosis and pneumoconiosis. Due to these covered illnesses under section 5 of the RECA, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Final Adjudication Branch accepted his claim under Part E of the act for medical benefits for the four above-mentioned illnesses.

In December 2016, as my father’s “authorized representative” when dealing with the DOL, EEOICPA division, I called Frontier company to inform them that the lift chair and a cane they ordered were not a good fit for him. He told me since the cane was not sturdy, he did not use it. So, he purchased two canes at the local Medical Supply store in Farmington. The too small lift chair he placed in the living room, unused. Since they were ordering the wrong sizes, I conveyed to his local Home Health Care case manager that I would be ordering all his future durable medical supply necessities.

I conversed with Frontier personnel, Darlene, about the lift chair and cane since Frontier orders the durable medical supplies and receives the checks from the DOL for those purchases. My father’s Home Health Care and Frontier work together with the DOL in regard to obtaining durable medical supplies for former uranium workers with covered illnesses.

The following points to the issue(s). Frontier personnel, Darlene, stated that the DOL EEOICPA approved for a proper fitting lift chair for my father and they were sent a check. My father found a lift chair with a price tag of approximately $1,300. Frontier’s Darlene told me that because the DOL approved for payment of approximately $500, my father would have to pay the remaining balance out of pocket.

My reply to Darlene was that that didn’t sound right. I stated that it was my understanding the DOL EEOICPA provides 100 percent payment for all durable medical equipment and no injured uranium worker should pay out of their own pockets.

I immediately called my father’s claim examiner and told her the situation. I asked her if my father is responsible for the remaining balance on the chair lift. The claims examiner answered, “No, Frontier, even if they lose money, has the responsibility to pay the remaining balance on a proper fitting durable medical equipment and no money should come out of any uranium employees’ pockets. Frontier company agreed to those terms when they signed up to work with the DOL.”

The claims examiner proceeded to say that Frontier may be committing fraud if they state to uranium workers that they must pay any remaining balance on any durable medical equipment. She added that the federal government has financial limitations on paying for durable medical equipment. She informed me that the DOL adheres to a Schedule C, which provides for the allowable cost of purchase for medical equipment. She stated that Frontier agreed to terms that if the DOL provides them a check short of the purchase price, Frontier agrees to pay the remaining balance and they were made aware of this.

So, Frontier (or any medical supply company that contracts with the DOL, EEOICPA) should not expect my father or any injured uranium worker to pay any amount.

If Frontier attempted to not pay remaining balance because they would not make a profit, but expect my father to pay the remaining balance so they could make a profit, it appears there is no watchdog.

If Frontier attempted to do this to my father, how many other injured uranium workers have they done this to? Is it still an ongoing practice for them? What other medical supply companies are doing this?

There is a difference between a medical supply company that form agreements/contracts with the DOL EEOICPA to work together in making purchases for uranium workers with covered illnesses and those medical supply companies, such as the Animas Medical Supply company, that do not work or contract with the DOL but do accept DOL checks/credit card payments for medical supply purchases.

Then, perhaps the injured uranium worker may have to pay out of pocket if the DOL approves only a certain payment amount, short of the full cost. But this situation should not happen.

I would like to acknowledge and thank Frontier company, specifically personnel Darlene, for their effort in resolving this issue with my father.

She had a Frontier technician pick up the too small lift chair and proceeded to obtain a proper fitting lift chair for my father without him having to pay anything out of pocket.

In addition, Frontier company reimbursed my father for the two canes he purchased out of pocket from the local Medical Supply business in Farmington.

Tammie Blackwater
Farmington, N.M.

Questions over chapter funds

Responding to Elizabeth Begay, auditor general, recommending changing unspent money law in a local newspaper.

I have written to you about the needs of money at the chapter level. My chapter, Tsaile/Wheatfields Chapter, has lost a lot of chapter funds that was more than $62,000. Our chapter doesn’t have that many staff. Our missing funds were never discovered.

We have an individual who controls everybody there and we also have one family that is an official, so there’s a lot of bias.

Our government has undermined us. We tried to ask about our lost funds and were told that it was used as payback for a debt. We need some auditor that can really get their hands dirty to audit our chapter, instead of just talking because of one woman’s control. She gets away with everything.

As a community from Black Rock, voters at Tsaile/Wheatfields, we try to question for our chapter funds. I really think paper trail and pencil pushers can be documented.

It hurts to know there’s unspent money when we really need it. My Black Rock community has been requesting for better roads, water for school buses, community service and community in general.

I know we have a right because we vote there and are accountable for funds with our chapter. Our chapter has been so abandoned in business.

There is just no closeness on a friendly basis with the community coordinator. Sometimes you come in from one chapter door to another and can’t find anyone.

There is just yes and no answers from the coordinator or assistant secretary. There is no such thing as, may I help you? Or, how are you? service.

We know there has been some tribal assistance this winter but nothing for us.

Winnie Henry
Chinle, Ariz.

CHR using elders for numbers

Last month I read in the Navajo Times an article on Community Health Representatives on how they provide health screenings, providing health care and bringing awareness in the community they represented. It appears that our elders, grandparents and parents are not provided with quality patient care in their home, however, they are being used for numbers such as quantity care and the CHR supervisors telling the CHRs to make contact with 20 to 30 patients a week.

The eight CHR Service Unit supervisors are competing with each other on who will make the most patient contacts and/or home visits by their CHRs a month in each service unit. Here we depend on our CHRs in the community, presuming that they are providing the best care to our people. I guess not. How can you use your own people for numbers and not give assure adequate quality care?

Culturally acceptable health-care services are available and accessible to our Navajo people and the health-care services are to meet the professional ethics, according to the CHR mission statement. I don’t think the CHR program is in compliance with their mission statement.

I have observed and witnessed the Shiprock Service Unit supervisor, Verna Begay, conduct herself unprofessionally by harassing and retaliating against the community health workers by using her position and overexerting her position.

It is demoralizing and unethical for the Shiprock CHR supervisor’s past wrongdoings by physically attacking the Shiprock Service Unit office specialist during her 90-day period and ordering a CHR to give a client an insulin shot. This is not protocol for the CHR to give insulin to their clients.

The Shiprock CHR supervisor went as far as harassing, intimidating and causing a hostile working environment at the Shiprock Service Unit office. These incidents were reported to CHR program manager, Mae-Gilene Begay, which she covered up, and sadly nothing to address the problems and no corrective action was done.

The Shiprock supervisor attacked a CHR in her office by slapping her on the wrist, which the CHR reported to the police, and was reported to Mae-Gilene Begay, which she neglected the incident with no corrective action. A meeting was held with the Shiprock CHRs and program manager on harassment and retaliation by Verna Begay and there was no feedback from Mae-Gilene Begay.

To this day the Shiprock CHRs are still being harassed and being retaliated by their supervisor. The Shiprock CHRs are kept from collaborating with Navajo Nation programs, IHS resources, chapter officials, no case management on behalf of their clients and no important meetings to meet the needs of our people.

Verna Begay instructed and demanded the Shiprock CHRs to bring in numbers by making five to 10 home visits a day with no quality care to the clients. Ms. Begay wants the CHRs to do quantity care, meaning five to 10 minutes per client, so she can beat the other seven service unit supervisors by reporting 80 to 120 per CHR home visits a month.

This is totally immoral using our own people as numbers and not giving the proper patient care. I have always looked up to the Shiprock Service Unit CHRs in the past because they used to give good quality health care, compassion, moral support and good health education to my parents, grandparents and other clients that they visit in the community.

In the past the CHRs used to collaborate with tribal resources, chapter officials and IHS resources to meet the needs of our people. The CHR program is recognized to be an important program and a lot of programs depend on the CHRs for services, but the services are not met.

I’m expressing my concern because there were two serious incidents that occurred by Verna Begay attacking the office specialist during her 90 days and nothing was done by the program manager and a second attack to a CHR and still nothing was done. Ms. Begay still continues to harass and intimidate the CHRs and is very unethical and sabotaging the Shiprock Service Unit staff.

I understand there were numerous complaints sent to Mae-Gilene Begay and to this day she has not done her job in responding to the complaints. The Navajo Nation personnel policy handbook and an executive order signed by Navajo Nation President Begaye and Vice President Nez states to stop harassment and intimidation in the workplace.

So it seems like these policies are indisputable. I guess if you’re a Navajo Nation employee and employee with the CHR program it is OK to be physically attacked and mistreated by your supervisor. I am very concerned and frustrated with the management staff not being held accountable for their misuse of her title, power and authority.

I make this public to our Navajo people on the Navajo Reservation because it is uncalled for to use our own people as a number and not given quality health care by the CHRs. Most of all, if our people are used as quantity care we do not need the CHR visits, because we need health-care providers that will give our families accessible quality patient care and that can communicate with them.

I say this because the Shiprock CHRs do not deserve to be treated as animals and they do not need to be fearful of their supervisor, Verna Begay. It is not right to be working in a hostile environment.

I understand that Dr. Segay is aware of the situation at the Shiprock CHR office and the treatment of the Shiprock CHR staff by Ms. Begay. Program manager, Mae-Gilene Begay, is aware of the incidents that happened to the two staff members at the Shiprock Service Unit office and she covered it up.

I wrote this letter because I want the Navajo people, our elected officials, President Begaye and Vice President Nez, and mostly the Department of Health division director, Dr. Segay, to read what’s really going on within the CHR program.

I am saying this again because our elders and families need proper quality care. They are not objects to where they are being used as numbers. This needs to stop and I believe that the CHR program needs to be investigated, especially the Shiprock Service Unit supervisor. To my finding I believe the CHR program is corrupt and lacks integrity.

I was a Navajo Nation employee, working closely with tribal programs where I resigned.

Benita McArthur
Farmington, N.M.

Remove president, vice president, NHA head

Window Rock is being “proactive” in response to a series of emails I have sent to Navajo Housing Authority, Russell Begaye and Jonathan Nez. I am working hard to have the people in Cedar Ridge and the rest of the Bennett Freeze zone live in humane conditions.

Begaye and Nez are blaming the federal government, but that is not true. The blame lies at the feet of the Navajo corrupted leaders such as themselves.

I have been fighting for months with these men and NHA to rebuild the house of my mother-in-law that passed waiting for it. Now my sister-in-law needs the house to be rebuilt or fixed, but the Navajo president and vice president refuse to do it because I dare them to do the right thing, which is stop stuffing your coffers and do something for your people.

These men are by far the most proficient actors and they have fooled many but not me. They have used intimidation but, like I told them once, I tell them now I am not afraid of you. I am not a Navajo, and if I were a Navajo none of them would be in power.

Navajos, you can do it, you can get rid of these men, but you must have the courage to ask them to step down. They do not deserve to be your leaders. Begaye and Nez are con artists and manipulators whose only purpose is to enrich themselves and pose for the next picture.

So please demand that Begaye and Nez be removed and NHA CEO Roberta Roberts also be removed.

Guadalupe Zapata-Slim
Metairie, La.

Poverty is destroying Diné

About “It’s Not Politics” (Jan. 4, 2018), the Times story of the forced resignation of Crystal J. Deschinny, the story totally demonstrated why too many Diné are dirt poor.

Among our Diné are individuals who are self-anointed and consider themselves wiser and nobler. Their way to appease Diné poverty is to have the government have all the power and money, then force Diné to follow what they, the anointed ones, want rather than provide opportunities for Diné to get out of poverty.

Getting Diné out of poverty is a cause. Diné leadership should be willing to accept that cause as their personal cause for justice. Diné poverty has all the dimensions or earmarks of a cause.

Pure and simple. The solutions to the poverty of our Diné is economic development. Any leader not comprehending that should willingly resign for the greater good. Poverty, after all, is destroying our Diné.

Getting rid of Deschinny was all politics and not wise at all. Just look at what she accomplished in two short years, and you don’t need to look very hard to see the positive direction she was headed.

With Deschinny out of the way, we are back to the same old, same old, where we live on lands where we have no title or ownership; where it takes years to start a business because of the insane hoops we must jump through.

Our only option now is to elect leaders who understand our history and the federal laws that are applied to control our Diné and their economic development. Deschinny understood those laws and was working within the laws for the benefit of our Diné.

Deschinny understood the legal issues of economic development from a Native American viewpoint, but she got little support from the president and Council delegates, which seems par for a governing body that opposes freedom of the press, free speech, and the right to bear arms.

Deschinny did nothing unethical, but on the other hand elected officials and their appointed friends and relatives were quick to express petty grievances of non-existing violations.

The days of our leadership with their head in the sand must end. Leaders need to be educated enough to understand why the Diné are poor. Petty behavior in leadership has no place when 87 percent of Diné are doomed to poverty.

Real government does not happen in the elegant marble palaces of Washington, D.C., nor in Window Rock. It happens around kitchen tables or on the dirt floors of hogans where we determine our vote.

Our Diné can vote out the self-anointed “wise ones” and vote for those who know the difference between right and wrong, or ones who can consider pros and cons, plus and minuses, and cost and benefits.

We need leadership who know that poverty is not a theory, but a living monster among our Diné.

Wally Brown
Page, Ariz.

Thank you, Code Talker Begay

Hello, my name is Alexus Talbert. I wanted to thank Navajo Code Talker, Ned Begay, for his service.

I just finished a book titled, “The Code Talkers” and the main Navajo in the book is Ned Begay and his story. I’m sorry for all the friends you lost and want to honor you with my gratitude.

Ned can write me back at: P.O. Box 3048, Shepherdstown, WV 25443.

Alexus Talbert
Shepherdstown, WV

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Categories: Letters