Residual Radiation legislation for EEOICPA filed today--

February 26, 2004

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SENATOR CLINTON DEMANDS ASSISTANCE

FOR NEGLECTED ATOMIC WORKERS

Files Legislation to Enable Those Who Worked in Contaminated Facilities after Weapons Production Ceased to Apply for Benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Disturbed by a loophole in federal law that denies assistance to a group of workers who served our nation during the Cold War, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) today introduced legislation that would close that loophole. The legislation addresses a major flaw in the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program by expanding eligibility for benefits. The Program was established by Congress in 2000 to compensate workers who developed diseases because of their work on our nation’s atomic weapons program.

Under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA), workers are eligible for a payment of $150,000 and medical coverage for expenses associated with the treatment of diseases contracted due to exposure to radiation at atomic weapons plants. However, under EEOICPA, workers who became sick from working in contaminated atomic weapons plants after weapons production ceased are not eligible for benefits. In 2003, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health released a report which concluded that "significant" residual radioactive contamination existed in many of these of these plants for decades, posing a risk of radiation-related cancers or disease to unknowing workers. Senator Clinton’s bill, the Residual Radioactive Contamination Compensation Act (RRCCA), would extend eligibility for benefits under EEOICPA to workers who were employed at facilities where NIOSH has found potential for significant radioactive contamination.

"Our atomic weapons program workers are true Cold War heroes, and deserve the 'timely, uniform, and adequate compensation' that Congress promised them more than three years ago," said Senator Clinton. "This bill will address one of the most glaring gaps in current law by making workers who were exposed to residual radiation eligible for benefits. Congress needs to act now to fix this unfair loophole."

In addition to expanding eligibility to workers employed at facilities where NIOSH has found potential for significant radioactive contamination, the Residual Radioactive Contamination Compensation Act would require NIOSH to update the list of such facilities annually. This addresses the fact that there was insufficient information for NIOSH to characterize a number of sites in its 2003 report.

Congresswoman Slaughter is introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

February 23, 2004

SCHUMER URGES FEDS TO BUILD A RESOURCE

CENTER IN WESTERN NY TO HELP NUCLEAR

WORKERS WITH THEIR CLAIM APPLICATIONS

Despite being home to scores of nuclear workers suffering from cancer due to the government's negligence, Western NY continues to be severely under-served by the feds' compensation program; Only 10 % of WNY claims have been paid out Schumer: A new resource center in WNY like the one California was just awarded would help nuclear workers file claims; Local workers currently have no local center to help them wade through layers of red tape.

US Senator Charles E. Schumer today implored the top federal officials responsible for overseeing the compensation program for cancer-struck nuclear workers to establish a new resource center Western New York as soon as possible to help sick workers with their compensation applications. Schumer lambasted the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP) for only paying out ten percent of claims to New York nuclear workers and said that action is needed immediately to assist local nuclear workers with the application process.

"It boggles the mind that after these men and women got dangerously ill from helping develop the country's nuclear weapons program, the federal government would turn its back on them," Schumer said. "We have New Yorkers literally dying off as they wait for these payments that were promised to them. There is no one here to help them file their claims so they can get the compensation they deserve and former nuclear workers in Western New York deserve a lot better."

During World War II and at the start of the Cold War, the federal government lacked the capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons in federal facilities and turned to the private sector for help. Workers at these facilities handled high levels of radioactive materials and were responsible for helping to create the huge nuclear arsenal that served as a deterrent to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Although government scientists knew of the dangers posed by the radiation, workers were given little or no protection and many have been diagnosed with cancer.

In an effort to compensate these workers, Congress passed legislation in 2000 that allowed them to file claims with the US Department of Labor for individual payments of $150,000 and other benefits for medical treatments. Workers who contracted radioactive cancer, beryllium disease or chronic silicosis after working at sites that performed nuclear weapons work during World War II and the Cold War were eligible. To file a claim, patients or their surviving families needed to provide proper documentation of their illness and employment history.

The Western New York region, including Western Pennsylvania, has the fourth highest concentration of these claims filed with the Department of Labor in comparison to those filed at existing resource centers nationwide.

As of February 1, 2004 there were 3,771 Subtitle B applications submitted to the Department of Labor for review from this area alone. This number exceeds the number of claims filed at areas that do have resource centers already, such as Hanford, WA; Portsmouth, OH; Los Alamos, NM; Rocky Flats, CO; Idaho National Labs and Amchitka Test Site in Alaska. Western New York is home to 14 former Atomic Weapon Employers (AWE) sites and DOE clean up facilities (see below).

Even though Western New York has a large number of facilities, the only assistance applicants in the region now receive to wade through layers of red tape is from a traveling resource center that comes to the area infrequently to serve current and former nuclear workers. EEOICPA Section 3631 requires DOL to provide outreach and claimant assistance.

Schumer said that a permanent facility is needed in Western New York, not only to increase awareness of the program among area residents, but to help serve workers throughout the clamaint process. A resource center assists workers in filing claims, gathering information about their work history, and other work related records necessary to file a claim for review. Ten resource centers have been set up by DOE and the Department of Labor (DOL) near DOE facilities across the country to help workers file applications.

"Despite having one of the greatest concentrations of facilities involved in nuclear weapons production-related activities in the nation, Western New York, and abutting areas of Pennsylvania, continue to be severely underserved by the EEOICP," Schumer wrote in a letter today to federal Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Labor Secretary Mary Chao. "The establishment of a permanent resource center in Western New York would represent a substantial step toward improving EEOICP services for workers in this region."People affected worked at Electro Metallurgical (Niagara Falls), Hooker Electrochemical (Niagara Falls), Carborundum Company (Niagara Falls), Lake Ontario Ordinance Works (Niagara Falls), Simonds Saw and Steel Co (Lockport), Titanium Alloys Manufacturing (Niagara Falls), Ashland Oil (Tonawanda), Bethlehem Steel (Lackawanna), Bliss and Laughlin Steel (Buffalo), Linde Air Products (Buffalo), Linde Ceramics Plant (Tonawanda), Seaway Industrial Park (Tonawanda), Utica St. Warehouse (Buffalo), the West Valley Demonstration Project (West Valley).

California was recently awarded a resource center as part of the Fiscal Year 2004 Energy Appropriations bill that was signed into law. The bill says it is to be established within 120 days of enactment of the legislation, or by the beginning of April.

also see: schumerhot.pdf

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

February 26, 2004

REPS. SLAUGHTER & QUINN INTRODUCE BILL TO EXPAND COMPENSATION FOR WORKERS AT FORMER ATOMIC SITES

Bill Would Allow Employees Exposed to Residual Contamination at

Former Atomic Sites to Apply for Federal Compensation Program

Washington, DC - U.S. Reps. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY28) and Jack Quinn (R-NY27) today introduced legislation that will expand the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP) to include workers employed at sites that remained contaminated after nuclear production ended. The Residual Radioactive Contamination Compensation Act (RRCCA) will allow workers exposed to residual contamination at dozens of sites across Western New York to apply for compensation under EEOICP.

"This legislation seeks to undo, in some small way, the injustice done to thousands of American workers in the years following the Manhattan Project," said Rep. Slaughter. "When the federal government established the Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program, it recognized its duty to compensate workers exposed to radiation during their service to our nation. Well, what about those workers that got sick from radiation in later years because the employers didn't clean up properly? It is our responsibility to make sure that these workers and their families are compensated."

"When the EEOICPA was first implemented in 2000, scientific evidence needed to make a thorough determination of nuclear worker exposure at contaminated sites did not exist," said Rep. Quinn. "Since then, further evaluation and examination of affected sites have given way to a report that shows clearly that many of the sites around the U.S., like the Bethlehem Steel site, could have caused cancer long after the dates specified in the existing law. As we have moved this process along, we have made every effort possible to ensure worker access to the compensation fund and have supported legislation to strengthen the program. With the introduction of this bill today we will update the EEOICPA to reflect the new information available to us and allow those afflicted workers to finally have their claims heard."

The RRCCA would allow workers who developed cancers and other radiation-related diseases from their work in facilities that were not properly decontaminated after the end of our nation's nuclear weapons program in the 1940s to apply for compensation under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program. Additionally, the bill would require further study of facilities where the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that the information was insufficient to make a determination as to whether there was residual contamination.

In November 2003, NIOSH released a report on residual radioactive and beryllium contamination at former nuclear weapons vendor facilities, which showed that almost half - 44 percent - of all former atomic weapons vendor facilities were found to have "the potential for significant residual contamination outside of the periods in which weapons-related production occurred." The report showed potential for significant residual radioactivity at several sites in Western New York, including Linde Ceramics (Tonawanda), Ashland Oil, Bethlehem Steel and Bliss and Laughlin.

RRCCA will require NIOSH to update this report annually. Reps. Slaughter and Quinn introduced the bill with U.S. Reps. Ted Strickland (D-OH) and Ed Whitfield (R-KY), the chief sponsors of another piece of legislation to overhaul the EEOICP.

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