FRANKFORT, Ky. (8/2/13) – U. S. Reps. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) have joined to introduce bipartisan legislation known as the Nuclear Workers Health Advisory Board Act. This legislation would help ensure former employees at certain Department of Energy (DOE) sites receive the benefits and care they have earned while also bringing transparency and oversight to the program charged with administering compensation.
“Too often workers and surviving family members at sites like the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant run into challenges when weaving through the federal government maze to claim benefits they deserve,” said Rep. Whitfield. “I am pleased to join Congressman Polis and Congressman Ed Perlmutter today to introduce this important legislation which will help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of EEOICPA and, in turn, help ensure workers and their families receive just compensation in a timely manner.”
“Many Cold War Patriots who have applied for health benefits have been met with red tape and bureaucratic delays rather than help,” said Rep. Polis. “Constituents in my district who worked at the Rocky Flats Plant have contracted multiple cancers and illnesses and are literally dying as they wait for their applications to be processed. The application review system is severely broken. That is why I joined with Representatives Whitfield and Perlmutter to introduce two nuclear workers health bills—the Nuclear Workers Compensation Act and the Nuclear Workers Health Advisory Board Act. The Nuclear Workers Health Advisory Board Act will create an advisory board to ensure that atomic weapons program workers get the medical benefits they deserve—in a timely fashion—to care for their work-related illnesses. The Nuclear Workers Compensation Act is a critical signal to the Department of Labor that they are not off the hook for compensation if the compensation process is delayed.”
"This is about justice,” said Rep. Perlmutter. “These workers risked their lives to protect this nation and helped end the Cold War, and they are entitled to receive the proper health care and benefits for this unselfish sacrifice to our country. These workers earned the right to a fast and fair process to improve the processing of claims for these eligible workers.”
The Nuclear Workers Health Advisory Board Act would require the President to establish and appoint an advisory board on toxic substances and worker health responsible for overseeing a portion of the original EEOICPA legislation known as ‘Part E.’ The Part E program provides eligible employees with compensation payments of up to $250,000, plus medical expenses for health conditions as a result of having been exposed to toxic substances while working for DOE.
The Board would advise the Secretary of Labor concerning the review and approval of applicants. Furthermore, the Ombudsman for the Department of Labor would be required to provide an annual report to Congress on the program and make the report available to the public online.
During the Cold War, thousands of workers employed in the nation's atomic weapons programs were exposed to radioactive and toxic substances. For this reason, Congress passed EEOICPA in 2001 to provide compensation to employees who have become ill as a result of work at atomic weapons facilities. Individuals, or their eligible survivors, who worked as an employee, contractor, or subcontractor at certain DOE facilities may be eligible for compensation in the form of lump sum payments and medical expenses.
Sens. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Lamar Alexander (R – TN) introduced similar legislation today in the U.S. Senate.
Information provided by Chris Pack
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