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USA changes law to make it harder for nuclear radiation victims to get compensation

the directive signals an initial step toward trying to dismantle or rein in a $12 billion compensation program that has made payments to more than 53,000 sickened workers or their survivors since 2001.

sick worker IdahoNuclear workers fear new policy will make it harder to win compensation

Department of Labor says nuclear facilities are much safer since 1995

Workers and advocates worry it will be more difficult to prove cases

A fight is underway to get policy repealed in order to protect sick employees

BY LINDSAY WISE, ROB HOTAKAINEN AND FRANK MATT McClatchy Washington Bureau, 22 Jan 16  WASHINGTON 

Abelardo Garza was working near tanks full of toxic sludge at Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state last Aug. 14 when one of his co-workers noticed a strange smell.

Within minutes, Garza’s nose started bleeding. The next morning, he awoke gasping for breath.

It was the fourth time in five years that Garza would end up in the hospital after suspected exposure to chemical vapors at Hanford, a 586-square-mile site where workers once made plutonium for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.

Now Garza, 65, worries that a new federal directive the government says was intended to speed up compensation claims by sick and dying nuclear workers could harm his chances of qualifying for benefits if his health worsens in the future.

The directive, which became effective in December 2014, orders claims examiners to conclude that workers at Department of Energy nuclear facilities have not have any significant exposure to toxins since 1995 “in the absence of compelling data to the contrary.”

To Garza, the wording of the government’s directive feels like a dismissal. 

“It’s like telling me that this incident didn’t happen to me,” he said.

Since the directive was introduced, nuclear workers and their advocates have been fighting it. Some say it’s time for Congress to intervene, fearing the directive signals an initial step toward trying to dismantle or rein in a $12 billion compensation program that has made payments to more than 53,000 sickened workers or their survivors since 2001.

Workers exposed to toxins after 1995 “will have to jump through a higher hurdle to prove that they are sick from exposure,” said Terrie Barrie, founding member of the Alliance of Nuclear Worker Advocacy Groups.

“My own personal opinion,” she said, “is they’re trying to control the costs, because it is expensive.”

In an investigation published Dec. 11, McClatchy reported that 107,394 nuclear workers or their relatives have applied for compensation from a fund set up in 2001 to help those suffering from cancers and other diseases. More than 33,000 of those workers who received compensation are now dead. In many cases, the money went to survivors.

‘It’s definitely a mistake’

The directive places a particularly onerous burden on construction workers, security guards and other employees who aren’t regularly assigned to one particular location, said Knut Ringen of Seattle, senior science adviser with the Center for Construction Research and Training, a nonprofit arm of the North America’s Building Trades Unions, AFL-CIO.

The unions have called for an independent review of the directive, hoping it will be reversed.

“It’s definitely a mistake, and it also defies everything that we know about what’s been going on at these sites,” Ringen said. “They’re definitely not safe.”

Despite stronger standards, safety lapses continue to plague the nation’s nuclear weapons and research sites.

A McClatchy examination of government records shows that 25 contractors have paid more than $106 million in fines for 75 incidents of safety-related misconduct at Department of Energy nuclear sites since 1995.

The records also reveal that at least 15 of those contractors paid $2.4 million worth of fines for 19 instances of misconduct specifically related to toxic substance exposure.

Now the directive is gaining notice from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, where critics say a different set of rules should not apply for those with more recent exposures.

“Health issues that relate to exposure should be dealt with expeditiously and fairly regardless of the date that they originate,” said Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis……. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article56125120.html

 

January 23, 2016 - Posted by | employment, Legal, USA

1 Comment »

  1. Aloha,
    I am victim of radiation exposure in 1962 testing at Johnston Island and have never been assisted medically
    for my cancer. This nation has excluded and denied thousand through fashioned programs to deny. Thee
    truth lies in the fact that every year amendments are submitted and die in committee. this nation has killed
    and injured hundreds of thousands and continues to avoid responsibility. Shame n this nation.

    Comment by terry scheidt | March 3, 2016 | Reply


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