Clinton presses for N-workers

Payment hearing sought in Senate

By Jerry Zremski


Updated: 06/05/07 6:40 AM

WASHINGTON - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday ratcheted up the pressure on the Bush administration over its handling of compensation for former nuclear workers in the Buffalo area and elsewhere, asking that a Senate committee conduct a hearing into the matter.

"Recent reports suggest that the problems encountered at Bethlehem Steel are symptomatic of problems with the program nationwide, and I hope we will be able to conduct oversight hearings on this important issue," said Clinton, D-N.Y., who asked the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to do just that.

"The workers at these facilities were essential to our Cold War efforts and were exposed to hazardous materials without their knowledge and without adequate protections," Clinton added. "It is past time to provide justice for Bethlehem Steel claimants and other former nuclear workers across the country."

The senator asked for the hearing in a letter to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the committee chairman, and to Sen. Michael Enzi of Wyoming, the committee's top Republican. The committee has jurisdiction over a law Congress passed in 2000 to compensate such workers if their health was damaged through radiation exposure in connection with federal nuclear programs.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, DN. Y., signed Clinton's letter, as did Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and 11 other senators of both parties.

With so many senators backing the hearing - and with Clinton serving on the committee while being the front-runner for the Democratic Party's 2008 presidential nomination - her request for a hearing on the issue is likely to be taken seriously.

"Nuclear weapons workers with work-related diseases in 20 states are not being compensated, although they have filed claims," Clinton said in the letter.

Those people are not being paid even though Congress passed a law in 2000 "designed to fairly compensate sick energy workers," she added.

She said the nuclear compensation program is under a great deal of scrutiny because of delays in processing claims and the denial of a large percentage of applications. That has prompted allegations that the Bush administration has limited payouts to save money.

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