The Buffalo News - Western New York

Lawmakers urge action on claims

11/19/2003

Federal officials who run the compensation program for former nuclear workers should come to Western New York to meet with people who've had trouble getting paid under the effort, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Jack F. Quinn, R-Hamburg, said Tuesday.

A number of Western New Yorkers who have filed claims under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program have complained that the program is poorly conceived and run, and has improperly denied their claims.

Schumer said he's asked two top officials from the Department of Energy and the Department of Labor who are overseeing the compensation program to come to Western New York to talk with those who have filed claims.

"These men and women worked with radioactive materials during the Cold War and played a vital role developing the country's nuclear weapons program, and what do they get in return? Cancer and a cold shoulder from the feds," Schumer said.

Quinn called for the chairman of the congressional subcommittee overseeing the program, Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., to hold a hearing in Buffalo "so that people can see first hand how the law has been implemented and how the former workers and their families are being affected by it."

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, has taken the lead on the compensation issue, collecting statements from former workers who have been denied payments and releasing a federal report on contamination at the sites.

And Congress has approved Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's measure requiring federal officials to report why the compensation has been delayed.

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