The Buffalo News - Everybody's Column

Compensation program is unfair, poorly run

11/4/2003

The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program was enacted by Congress in 2000 to pay victims and survivors medical and death benefits due to radiation exposure during the Cold War period. The death benefit is in the amount of $150,000.

Bethlehem Steel's Lackawanna Plant was one of hundreds of contractors across the country where employees were exposed. From 1949 to 1952, employees rolled pure uranium bars for use as nuclear reactor rods with no knowledge of what they were working with, no safety equipment and no concern for their health.

This exposure resulted in a very high cancer rate and subsequent deaths of these employees in later years. More than 1,200 claims qualified as cases for government-specified radiation-related cancer. Yet the program has denied 90 percent of the Bethlehem Steel claimants.

These denials are due to the application of an exposure model that severely underestimates the time and strength of exposure these now mostly deceased employees received on the job. Since 50 years have passed since the work stopped, very few records exist. The model is composed primarily of scientific guesswork. It fails to include several forms of occupational exposure and makes some very questionable assumptions. The program has become nothing more than a lottery. It has paid the families of the lucky few whose numbers have popped up on a computer program, while the majority have been denied.

This compensation program is unfair and poorly run. It is a slap in the face to the survivors and deceased employees who sacrificed their health and had their lives cut short by doing an honest day's work providing for the needs of our country.

FRANK J. PANASUK

Hamburg

Copyright 1999 - 2003 - The Buffalo News

RETURN TO

Home

Fundamentals

Library

Communications

News

HOME

FUNDAMENTALS

LIBRARY

COMMUNICATIONS

NEWS