Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
For immediate release: January 8, 2008
Sick Livermore Lab Workers' Path to Compensation May Soon be Eased
Tri-Valley CAREs urges national radiation board to 'do the right thing' in January 8 vote
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 - Tri-Valley CAREs calls upon the national Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health 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).
"If the Board recommends adding the class of workers from Livermore Lab, sick and dying workers will finally be able to receive the compensation they deserve," observed Robert Schwartz, Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney. "As it stands now, many hundreds of Livermore Lab workers are being denied justice because the Lab never kept adequate records of employee exposures due to accidents, spills, leaks and on the job hazards," Schwartz continued. Schwartz facilitates a support group for ill Livermore Lab and Sandia Lab workers.
If the SEC passes, 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.
"This bureaucratic 'Catch 22' of missing records is a major reason why only 307 sick Livermore Lab workers out of 2,300 who have applied for compensation since the year 2000 have received awards," noted Tri-Valley CAREs' Executive Director, Marylia Kelley. "While the government cannot make up for the fact that it lied to its workers about the risks they were taking, at least a small modicum of justice will be done by removing one of the roadblocks to compensation for those who were made ill by on the job exposures."
The Board will consider the Livermore Lab SEC petition at its next meeting on Tuesday, January 8th in Las Vegas, Nevada.
SICK LIVERMORE LAB WORKERS?
The Livermore Lab SEC petition, which is being put forward by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, is scheduled for discussion and vote at 2:15 PM Pacific Time. Media and other interested parties may listen in via teleconference at 866-659-0537. The code is 9933701.
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 whether or not 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, 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 $150,000 in compensation. If living, medical treatment for the sick worker is included. In some cases 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.