ATLANTA — "Unacceptable," that’s the word Congressman Mike Collins used in his letter to sum up his concerns about transparency, long delays, and poor communication within a program designed to help people injured by COVID treatments.
All were issues exposed in a series of reports by 11Alive Investigates.
Rep. Collins sent the letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, HHS, earlier this month, requesting a response by March 1. So far, a day before the deadline, the department has remained quiet.
“If they don’t respond then we’ll just turn up the heat a lot more than what we have been with just this letter,” said Collins, who represents Georgia’s 10th District.
At issue is the CICP, which stands for Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program. So far, 11,196 people have filed a claim, reporting some type of injury related to the COVID vaccine or other treatment. Almost all of those claims, 10,653, are still pending review. Only 19 claims have been approved for compensation, most of those for myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.
The program only pays out-of-pocket expenses related to medical bills and lost wages. Unlike other vaccine programs, there is no reimbursement for pain and suffering. Still, Beverly and Allen Storey say those costs add up.
Allen Storey suffered an acute brain stem stroke just days after getting the vaccine. His wife filed a claim more than two years ago, believing the two are connected. They still have no idea where their case stands.
“You don’t get any answers. Nobody calls back, nobody’s sent anything in the mail,” said Storey. “I don’t understand why they can’t read it and respond like they said they would!”
The government agreed vaccine makers wouldn’t be liable if someone had a negative reaction, instead taking on that responsibility itself. The question now is whether the government is holding up its end of the bargain.
Rep. Collins believes part of the problem is too many federal employees are still working from home.
“That’s why you’re so timely in this. It’s just the mere fact that it is time for the federal government to get all their employees back to work. If that’s the issue, then there really is no issue. The pandemic is over. We’ve even passed that bill stating that the pandemic is over,” said Collins.
He also says for the past decade, congress has given federal agencies a lot of money, without a lot of accountability.
“We’ve got to reign that in and we’ve got to get these agencies to come in and tell us exactly what’s been going on and we’ve got to get control over them. Because they do not run on their own. They answer to Congress. We hold the purse strings and it's time we start using those purse strings to get our answers,” said Collins.
11Alive has for months, been trying to get answers from the CICP on how many people are working to process these claims. Congressman Rich McCormick, who represents Georgia’s 6th District, is also trying to get that information. Why HHS is refusing to answer is unclear.
In a written statement, a spokesperson for his office said, “Dr. McCormick is working with his fellow congressmen and physicians to address this issue in a substantial way. He is not satisfied with the slow response time and lack of transparency on the part of the CICP, and his inquiries will be published shortly.”