ATLANTA — It seems very few people want to talk about the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program or CICP. It’s a federal program to compensate people hurt by a medicine or medical device used to fight a pandemic.
For Allen Storey, and for more than half of the people who have filed claims with the CICP, that countermeasure is the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I was glad to get it,” recalled Allen Storey about the vaccine. But then came an acute brain stem stroke and a series of confusing medical diagnosis that left them financially and emotionally dazed and confused.
“It was just like a bolt of lightning,” said Allen.
The Storeys are not anti-vaxxers. Both his wife and daughter received the vaccine and the booster shots that followed. They chose to get vaccinated to help protect Allen and neither reported any negative side effects.
However, days after Allen received his first vaccine dose, doctors thought he was experiencing vertigo. His condition grew worse. He became non-responsive. His only way to communicate was by squeezing Beverly’s hand.
“His mind was 100% working inside his body. His body just couldn’t move,” Beverly explained.
Allen had recently had a full body health screen and was ruled generally healthy. So, his wife suspected the stroke had something to do with the COVID vaccine. She noticed a reference to the CICP on his paperwork.
By this time, both were unemployed. Allen could no longer work and he needed full time care. They also had to give up their family home of 25 years because his wheelchair wouldn’t fit through the doors and the rooms were all upstairs.
But instead of helping, the CICP became one more challenge.
“The burden of proof is 100% on you and that became a problem with cost and logistics,” recalled Beverly.
Allen’s medical records were scattered across five hospitals and Beverly said the application itself was confusing.
“I started it and then didn’t even understand it. It was like, 'what do I do with this?'” Still, she’s managed to send a thousand pages of information that she believes links Allen’s fight for life to the vaccine.
But nearly two years later, she still hadn’t heard from anyone at the CICP.
Doctors have not officially declared Allen's medical woes on the vaccine, but the couple said doctors have ordered him not to take a second shot, or any vaccine for that matter. It is now up to those at the CICP to determine if there is enough correlation.
“You don’t get any answers. Nobody calls back, nobody has sent anything in the mail,” Beverly told 11Alive exasperated.
The Storeys did write to President Joe Biden, as well as U.S. Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who both represent Georgia. After 11Alive reached out, Sen. Ossoff’s office did reach out to them to get more information and figure out how they could help. Beverly was also able to get through to someone at the CICP to verify at least that her paperwork had been received.
But since then, the only communication they've received has been a letter asking for patience.
11Alive asked to talk with both Senators about a bill introduced by Utah's Republican U.S. Senator Mike Lee, hoping to make the claim process easier and more transparent. Both declined. Even Sen. Lee would not agree to an interview on his own legislation.
“What about the people who this has happened to who have never heard of it, don’t have a computer, don’t have $50 for medical records. Don’t have the gas to get in the car and go to beg for the medical records?” Beverly asked.
11Alive also reached out to the Department of Human Services, the agency responsible for running the program. The department wouldn’t talk on camera either or say why. It wouldn’t even say how many people it’s hired to work on the 11,000 COVID-related claims filed so far. Senator Ossoff's office says it is also waiting on a response from the agency.
“I don’t understand why they can’t read it and respond like they said they would!” exclaimed Beverly.
However, in a written response DHS did say, “More than 80% of Request for Benefits forms are submitted without medical records or the required authorization forms. The program cannot begin to review a claim until all this information is submitted. The law sets a high threshold that requesters must meet and HRSA works diligently to ensure that all requesters have complete medical records in order to give them every opportunity for a comprehensive review of their circumstances.”
A bar so high, the CICP website reports it has only approved 12 people for compensation so far. Ten were for myocarditis, one for pericarditis, and one for anaphylaxis. Sixty eight claims have been denied. The rest remain under review.
“They’re like an insurance company just looking for reasons not to pay you or acknowledge what’s going on,” fears Allen.
11Alive wanted to know how many people the government had hired to review claims. In Sept. 2021 we were told four staff and six contractors were working to process CICP claims. But when we asked for updated information in late 2022, the CICP refused to answer.
A spokesperson reiterated that, ”any person who has questions about a claim or even how to file a claim can contact the CICP immediately by phone at 1-855-266-2427 (1-855-266-CICP) or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
It's important to note once again that doctors have not officially declared Allen's medical issues due to the vaccine; CICP will have to determine if there is enough correlation. As it relates to the shots, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said COVID-19 vaccinations are safe and effective, and severe reactions are rare. Read more about adverse events reported after COVID-19 vaccines on the CDC's website.