Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
For immediate release: January 9, 2008
Community Group Hails Board Decision to Approve Livermore Lab Sick Worker Petition
for more information, contact:
Robert Schwartz, Staff Attorney, Tri-Valley CAREs, 925-443-7148
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs, 925-443-7148
LIVERMORE, CA - Today, the national Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health voted unanimously to recommend adding a class of sick workers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to the Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA).
"The Board's recommendation is an important step towards sick workers from Livermore Lab receiving the compensation they so justly deserve," commented Robert Schwartz, Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney. "Sick workers or their survivors, many of whom have been waiting for over 6 years, will finally be compensated for their illnesses."
Schwartz continued: "Next, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and Congress must support the petition, which they are expected to do. I am hopeful that they will act quickly, as 'justice delayed is justice denied,' as Dr. King pointed out." Schwartz facilitates a support group for ill Livermore Lab and Sandia Lab workers.
If the SEC is approved, it will allow sick workers who meet certain employment qualifications to receive compensation for specified cancers often associated with radiation exposure without having to go through the bureaucratic snarl of individual dose reconstruction, which is impossible to do correctly in the absence of records.
Raili Glenn, a Dublin resident, spoke to the Board in support of the petition. Ms. Glenn's husband, who died of radiation-linked illness, was employed at Livermore Lab and the Nevada Test Site. Her moving testimony highlighted the many sacrifices made by nuclear workers and their families.
The Board's discussion concerning the Livermore Lab SEC petition highlighted a couple of important but still unresolved issues. One Board member questioned the December 31, 1973 cut-off date for the proposed class, as there is little evidence that sufficient records are available to perform accurate dose reconstructions after that date.
In addition, there was some confusion regarding the precise class definition and whether LLNL administrative workers should be included. In the end, the Board
agreed to have its Work Group on SEC Issues monitor the situation to ensure that workers who may have been exposed were not being excluded from the class.
"Tri-Valley CAREs will work to ensure that the SEC is passed in a timely manner," said Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs' Executive Director. "We will also seek to help Livermore Lab workers who were exposed after 1973 obtain compensation," she vowed. "This is a huge step forward, but is not the end of the road."
BACKGROUND: The SEC is a designation given to a class of workers for whom sufficiently accurate dose reconstructions cannot be performed. Without such a designation, sick workers must have their doses reconstructed by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in a lengthy and confusing process that is often incomplete when a sick worker passes away. Once given the SEC designation, sick workers instead must demonstrate that they fall within the SEC class definition and have one of the specified 22 cancers outlined in the EEOICPA.
The proposed class for the Livermore Lab SEC petition includes all employees of the Department of Energy (DOE), its predecessor agencies, and DOE contractors or subcontractors who were monitored, or should have been monitored, for internal exposure to mixed fission and/or activation product radionuclides while working at the Lab. Sick workers must demonstrate that they worked at Livermore Lab for a number of work days aggregating at least 250 work days from January 1, 1950 through December 31, 1973, or in combination with work days under another class of the SEC. Workers whose jobs kept them in administrative facilities (e.g., library, cafeteria, offices) outside of radiological areas will not be included in the class.
The Board's recommendation to add the class of workers from Livermore Lab to the SEC will go to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, who will then make a final decision. Once the Secretary makes that decision, he will send his decision to Congress, which has 30 days to reverse or expedite the Secretary's decision. To date, Congress has never acted to oppose an SEC petition, and after 30 days the Secretary's decision becomes final.
If the class of workers from Livermore Lab is added to the SEC, then all claims at NIOSH will be sent back to the Department of Labor (DOL). DOL will then be responsible for determining eligibility for compensation under the new class. DOL will also review all claims currently in its possession for individuals from Lawrence Livermore.
The EEOICPA was enacted by Congress in 2000. The Act provides for qualified claimants or their surviving spouses to receive a maximum of $250,000 in compensation. If living, related medical treatment for the sick worker is included. If there is no surviving spouse, a child may file on behalf of a deceased parent.
LOCAL ACTION: Tri-Valley CAREs will be holding its next Sick Worker Support Group meeting at the Livermore Public Library on Wednesday, January 9th. The meeting will be held in Community Room A from 10am to noon. The Livermore Lab SEC petition will be discussed in detail at the meeting, as well as resources to help sick workers receive compensation.