Schumer Passed Federal Legislation Last Year Calling for Resource Center to Help Former Nuclear Workers Suffering from Cancer to Cut Through Layers of Red Tape and Receive Federal Compensation

As Part of Senator's Provision to Last Year's Spending Bill, Department of Labor will Open Office in Amherst Next Week

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that the Department of Labor will open a much awaited resource center on July 25th for workers in Western NY involved weapons production-related activities during the Cold War. During the Cold War, workers were unknowingly exposed to radiation, laboring without proper radiation monitoring and without the needed protections from occupational radiation exposure. Today, workers have the opportunity to receive compensation for their sacrifices through the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program.

The Resource Center, mandated by a Schumer provision in the 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, will open an office in the Amherst Development Park next week to assist workers applying for federal compensation. In February, Schumer had urged Mr. Shelby Hallmark, the Director of the Labor Department's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, for an accelerated timetable in establishing this center.

"Once this Resource Center is open, we can finally start to give New York's Cold War heroes the support they need and the help they deserve," Schumer said. "Western New Yorkers will now have a one-stop-shop to go to for assistance cutting through all of the bureaucratic red tape. These former nuclear workers got dangerously ill from helping develop the country's nuclear weapons program, and should not have to wait any longer for help. This Center will help them get the assistance they need, and you can be assured that I will continue to fight on their behalf."

In November 2004, Schumer successfully secured a mandate from Congress that establishes a resource center intended to provide Western New Yorkers with the support that they need to effectively navigate the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program. Senator Schumer's language establishes a new resource center in Western New York that would help sick nuclear workers with their compensation applications. Schumer who has lambasted the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) for only paying out ten percent of claims to New York nuclear workers, said that the resource center was vital to assist local nuclear workers with the application process.

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.

As of February 1, 2004, the number of claims submitted to the Department of Labor under subtitle B of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000 from the western New York region, including western Pennsylvania, exceeded the number of such claims filed at resource centers in Hanford, Washington; Portsmouth, Ohio; Los Alamos, New Mexico; the Nevada Test Site, Nevada; the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site, Colorado; the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, Idaho; and the Amchitka Test Site, 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 claimant process. The resource center will assist workers in filing claims, gathering information about their work history, and other work related records necessary to file a claim for review. Eleven 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.

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).