Filed Under:  Health & Wellness

Health claims to be considered in BP’s spill settlement

12th March 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Susan Buchanan
Contributing Writer

Gulf residents will have another shot best payday loans in md at getting spill-related, medical claims paid following a proposed settlement between BP and plaintiffs, announced on March 2. Residents with ailments that weren’t compensated by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility—set up after the spill to pay victims—are waiting to learn more about the new system, including its proof of illness requirements. The GCCF paid for bodily injuries caused by the BP rig explosion nearly two years ago but rejected claims for other spill ailments.

Under the settlement-to-be, BP has agreed to pay $105 million for community health care on the Gulf Coast.

The settlement, which still has to be approved by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, divides plaintiffs or claimants into two class actions, one for economic losses and another for medical issues. The agreement doesn’t cover federal government complaints. The accord is for an uncapped amount according to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee representing claimants, though BP estimates it will cost $7.8 billion.

Last week, the GCCF was replaced by a system overseen by the court, and GCCF paymaster Ken Feinberg is stepping aside.

On Thursday, Ken Feinberg said “the GCCF did not pay for respiratory illnesses, skin conditions or other spill-related ailments. We were getting ready to pay a few of these claims after receiving input from medical and scientific experts.”

But, he said, “that will now be the responsibility of the GCCF transition staff and the new settlement personnel. The court order was signed this morning, and Patrick Juneau is the new, court-supervised administrator of the GCCF.” payday loans in pearisburg va He added “I believe he is a superb choice,” without elaborating.

On March 8, Judge Barbier appointed Richmond, Va. attorney Lynn Greer to fill in for Feinberg and serve as transition coordinator. Patrick Juneau, a Lafayette-based attorney, will take over for Greer and work as claims administrator if and when Judge Barbier approves the March 2 settlement.

As for the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, its attorneys represent more than 100,000 individuals and businesses—fishermen, restaurateurs, seafood firms, charter boat captains, hotel operators, condo owners and others affected by the rig explosion.

Tony Buzbee, partner in The Buzbee Law Firm in Houston, represented 19 injured, Deepwater Horizon rig workers, who were all paid by the GCCF for a combined total that exceeded $100 million. “I have a lot of cleanup workers exposed to dispersants, benzene and whatnot, but never tried to get their claims settled with Ken Feinberg,” Buzbee said last week. “He told me he’d be happy to look at the claims but needed medical records.”

Buzbee continued, saying “I don’t know the new particulars of the settlement, but am told they will be more generous and might have a different approach to medical proof. I’m hoping more people will get paid for their ailments in the new process.”

When asked about some of the particulars, BP spokesman Scott Dean said he was unable to provide anything beyond the details outlined in the proposed settlement and the March 8 court order.

Meanwhile, fishermen who worked for BP’s Vessels of Opportunity Program how to pay off payday loans quickly or VOO doing oil cleanup from boats are among those who came into contact with oil and the dispersants that were used to get rid of it. BP didn’t allow VOO workers to wear respirators during cleanup work.

Dr. Mike Robichaux, who treats patients with spill ailments in Raceland, La., said “many of the people who are ill in southeast Louisiana are VOO workers—largely from Lafourche, Plaque-mines and St. Bernard Parishes. There are also scores of patients from Louisiana and elsewhere who are ill but didn’t work directly with toxic chemicals. They were exposed through fumes, sprays, skin contact with contaminated water, and in some cases by eating and drinking contaminated food.”

Robichaux said from what he’s heard about the proposed claims system, those with chronic symptoms will have to submit medical records from the time of exposure, along with information about their care. But he said some coastal residents, including many fishermen, don’t have health insurance and didn’t see a doctor when their symptoms first appeared—which was sometimes well after the spill. He worries that victims without medical records might be declared ineligible under the new protocol.

Under the proposed settlement, BP plans to provide $105 million to improve the availability and quality of health care in Gulf communities. Coastal residents, including those who aren’t class members in the settlement, will be able to benefit from a proposed outreach program that expands primary and mental health care and provides access to environmental health specialists. Some of the planned money will be spent on financial institution loans education about Gulf health issues.

Dr. Robichaux said he wonders who the environmental health specialists will be, saying “to this date, none have stood up and made a clear statement of their intentions” to address spill ailments.

Under the settlement, medical claims will be resolved based on “a matrix for certain, currently-manifested physical conditions.” Qualifying class members will be eligible for 21 years of medical consultation. Class members claiming “later-manifested physical conditions,”or symptoms that showed up some time after the spill, can make their claims through a mediation or litigation process.

When asked if the Louisiana Dept. of Health and Hospitals will be involved in BP’s proposed Gulf health outreach, DHH spokesman Ken Pastorick said “DHH was not a party to the lawsuit, and therefore is not aware of the particulars of the settlement.”

And for their part, hospitals contacted last week in New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana had little to say about the settlement.

Robichaux said treatment will have to include more than conventional medicine. “When I tried using conventional medicine on spill victims for about a year, it did little more than relieve their symptoms,” he said. But since then, he has had success with a detoxification program. Robichaux said spill workers have conditions similar to soldiers who returned from the 1991 Gulf War, with a multi-symptom disorder known as Gulf War Syndrome from exposure to toxic chemicals.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies benzene, which is present in crude oil, as a known human carcinogen. Volatile organic compounds—including benzene, ethylbenzene, cash generator wigan loans toluene and xylene—are present in oil, and at elevated concentrations can cause health problems, including cancer, according to the EPA.

The Louisiana Dept. of Health and Hospitals from late May to late September 2010 recorded 415 health complaints thought to be related to oil-spill pollutants or heat stress from working near the spill. Of those, 329 reports were from workers and 86 were from the general population. Symptoms included headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, weakness, fatigue and upper respiratory irritations. Eighteen workers had short hospitalizations. The state’s spill surveillance reporting on health complaints ended in late September 2010 as the risk of exposure diminished. Since then, the LDHH has received eight more spill-related complaints about workers, and they were self-reported, or reported by health-care providers, hospitals or the Louisiana Poison Center’s 24-hour hotline, according to Pastorick.

BP has had several explanations for not issuing respirators to VOO workers. In its Frequently Asked Questions for Vessels of Opportunity Occupational Health, BP said on June 5, 2010 “we are not providing respirators for workers away from the source of the spill because there are no indications of volatile organic compounds or VOCs in those areas.” The FAQ went on to say “if used under certain conditions in high temperatures, respirators can increase the risk of heat stress and heat stroke.”

When asked last week about BP’s policy regarding protective clothing and respirators for clean-up workers, including VOO workers, BP spokesman Curtis Thomas said “response workers followed carefully established work procedures, supplemented by personal protective equipment, telenor easy loan such as gloves, boots and protective clothing, to minimize their contact with crude oil and dispersants.” He refrained from commenting on respirators, but said “extensive air monitoring was conducted by government agencies and BP to make sure airborne concentrations of chemicals of concern remained below government established limits.” He said if an increase in airborne concentrations occurred, actions were required to keep those concentrations at safe levels.

As for claims, the GCCF as of March 7 had reviewed more than a million spill-related claims in over 18 months from 574,379 individuals and businesses, and had paid $6.1 billion from a $20 billion fund set up by BP. Florida claimants received the most money, followed by applicants from Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.

During the transition to a new system, GCCF claims payments will be issued, but with some changes. Under the March 8 court order, claimants with final offers from the GCCF can recover 60 percent of their money immediately. And if they’re eligible under the new program, they can opt for the remaining 40 percent or wait for new awards—which might be higher but could take time to calculate.

If you have medical symptoms from the spill, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is interviewing cleanup workers and volunteers for a research study. Gulf Coast residents interested in participating can phone 1-855-NIH-GULF or visit

This article was originally published in the March 12, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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