Tonawanda News - Saturday, March 15, 2003

Slaughter calls for speedy payments to atomic workers

By Patrick J. Bradley/Tonawanda News

Pointing to the fact that the federal government has settled only 12 of 3,749 claims filed by former Western New York atomic workers and surviving family members, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter on Friday called for an overhaul of the federal program that's supposed to help them.

"It is completely indefensible that after two years, the Department of Labor has approved less than 1 percent of all claims filed in Western New York," said Slaughter, D-Fairport, during a press conference in her Niagara Falls office. "Time is of the essence. This is an aging and ill population. We must act now to get them the benefits they need and deserve."

Slaughter said she soon will join other House members in introducing the Reform of Energy Workers Compensation Act to ensure that the government treats those workers fairly. The bill would cover more types of cancer, make documentation of health and employment easier and expand the coverage dates for eligible workers.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the U.S. government secretly contracted with scores of private companies, many of them in Western New York, to process huge volumes of nuclear weapons material such as uranium, thorium, polonium, beryllium and other radioactive and toxic substances, Slaughter said.

Contact Patrick J. Bradley at 282-2311, ext. 2251, or bradleyp@gnnewspaper.com.

Copyright © 2003 Greater Niagara Newspapers.

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