Reading Room

For immediate release: April 2, 2008

Community Group, Congressional Representative Hail New Class Added Today to Federal Sick Worker Law to Aid Livermore Lab Employees

for more information, contact:
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148
Robert Schwartz, Staff Attorney, Tri-Valley CAREs. (925) 443-7148
Steven Sugarman, Belin & Sugarman, (505) 672-5082

LIVERMORE, CA - Today, a class of employees from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory were officially added to the Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) under the federal Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000 (EEOICPA).

"This designation is important. It will greatly simplify the compensation process for some of the Livermore Lab employees who suffered on-the-job exposures and then developed cancer," commented Robert Schwartz, Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney. "The long wait that many workers in our community have been forced to endure may soon be over," continued Schwartz, who facilitates a quarterly support group for ill Livermore Lab and Sandia Lab workers.

"Anyone who gets sick while in the service of our national interest should receive the benefits they deserve, and even more, these critical services must be delivered quickly," said U.S. Representative Ellen O. Tauscher (D-10th District). "I have been working for some time to ensure that sick workers have a resource center to assist them in the lengthy compensation application process. A resource center was opened in Livermore in 2004, and now this expedited approval process will become an additional resource for workers and their families to get the assistance they desperately need."

The Livermore Lab SEC, which becomes law today, allows sick workers who meet certain employment qualifications to receive compensation for specified cancers 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.

Both Tri-Valley CAREs and Congresswoman Tauscher had written the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Mike Leavitt, urging him to expedite designation of the class of employees from Livermore Lab as part of the Special Exposure Cohort.

On March 3, 2008, the Secretary of HHS designated the following class of employ-ees as an addition to the SEC: Employees of the Department of Energy (DOE), its predecessor agencies, and DOE contractors or subcontractors who were monitored for radiation exposure while working at Livermore Lab from January 1, 1950, through December 31, 1973, for a number of work days aggregating at least 250 work days or in combination with work days within the parameters established for one or more other classes of employees in the SEC. Under the EEOICPA, a 30-day period generally follows the HHS designation before it becomes law.

The Secretary's designation differed in some respects from the class definition that was originally proposed. The usual class definition language of "who were monitored or should have been monitored" was replaced with "were monitored for radiation exposure." Also, the language in the original class definition has been changed from "for internal exposure to mixed fission and/or activation product radionuclides" to "radiation exposure." According to the Secretary, this change was made for accuracy and ease of application to compensation decisions by the Department of Labor (DOL).

"While this designation is certainly a step in the right direction, I'm concerned that many people are being left out," observed Schwartz. "For instance, employees who worked in administrative areas will not be covered under this class definition. Nor will it cover Livermore Lab workers whose employment, and on-the-job exposures, occurred after 1973. Tri-Valley CAREs will continue to work with community members and elected officials until these workers receive the compensation they so justly deserve."

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 In-stitute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in a lengthy and confusing proc-ess 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.

Now that the class of workers from Livermore Lab has been added to the SEC, all claims at NIOSH will be sent back to DOL. DOL will then be responsible for deter-mining eligibility for compensation under the new class. DOL will also review all claims currently in its possession for individuals from Livermore Lab.

Congress enacted the EEOICPA 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.

LOCAL ACTION/EVENTS: Tri-Valley CAREs will be holding its next Sick Worker Support Group meeting at the Livermore Public Library on Wednesday, June 4th. The meeting will be held in Community Room A from 10am to noon. In addition, officials from the U.S. Dept. of Labor will hold informational meetings in Livermore on Wednesday, April 23 at 7 PM and Thursday, April 24 at 10 AM and 2 PM. These meetings will be at the Doubletree Club, 720 Las Flores Rd., Livermore.

For more information, contact Robert Schwartz, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148.

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