EEOICPA: Compensate Cold War Warriors & Cleanup Workers

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This petition sends a message to both Houses of Congress that we have had enough of the red tape and obstacles put in the way of the Cold War Warriors.  We worked at uranium production facilities during the Cold War and helped clean them up afterwards.  We got cancer and other serious illness because of our work, starting in 1940 through the present day. We were promised compensation under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA), yet the vast majority of claims are unfairly denied. This is because the law is implemented to deliberately deny us the compensation we deserve.

This petition says that the EEOICPA will be revised so that everyone who worked at an Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) or Department of Energy (DOE) facility, whether during the actual production or during the environmental cleanup stage, who got cancer or an illness caused by exposure to toxic substances, will be compensated. 

It’s time to pay the people who got sick or their surviving family members. Under the current system, the government will pay political appointees, civil servants and paper pushers to come up with excuses for not compensating us, even though it would have been simpler and cheaper to compensate us.

Everyone who worked at one of the AEC or DOE sites between 1940 and the present who got cancer or an illness caused by exposure to hazardous or toxic substances will be compensated in the amount of $400,000 and receive lifetime medical benefits.

Read below for more details:

A gross miscarriage of justice needs to be corrected, and I have exhausted all other resources. Since the government that is supposed to help us only ignores us, I am turning to my fellow American citizens. Significant attention to our cause may be the catalyst we need to get the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) to actually provide compensation.

The EEOICPA was supposedly passed to compensate those of us who worked as Cold War Warriors at atomic production sites across the country who developed cancer and other illnesses. First the sites were operating under the auspices of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), and later the Department of Energy (DOE). We developed cancer and other illnesses because we were exposed to radioactive and hazardous materials. We were first involved in uranium production and then in cleaning these sites up once the Cold War was declared over. The EEOICPA was supposed to help us, but in fact, it has only led to broken promises and false hopes. This is because government agencies interpret the rules implementing the Act against the claimants, even though they want us to believe differently.

We were told that the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) would subject my claim for compensation to a Dose Reconstruction. This is an estimate by NIOSH and its contractor, Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU).

Here’s the problem: NIOSH’s estimate does not estimate the actual radiation dose. In fact, it is grossly underestimated. There are serious flaws in the site profiles used at Department of Energy (DOE) work sites which form the basis for NIOSH’s Dose Reconstruction Reports for individual site employees. These flaws are the result of several factors, including missing, inaccurate and, in some instances, falsified DOE and contractor records (and research has proven these records were falsified – even the DOE Inspector General’s Office admitted it). This leads to invalid assumptions and miscalculations. Therefore, even though NIOSH and ORAU claim to overestimate the dose we claimants have received, the reality is that they are continuing to grossly underestimate these doses.

Since NIOSH and the Department of Labor refused to accept that radiation causes cancer, they are, by extension, refusing to accept the credibility of the following organizations:

• The Columbia University Center for Radiological Research
• The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
• The Radiation and Genome Stability Unit of the United Kingdom Medical Research Council
• The US National Cancer Institute
• The American Cancer Society
• The National Academy of Sciences
• The Radiation Effects Research Foundation in Hiroshima, Japan
• The Johns Hopkins University
• The University of California, Berkeley

all of whom have published scientific research supporting my contention: a dose that is even a fraction of what NIOSH admits we received while on the job at AEC / DOE sites was more than sufficient to cause cancer. But NIOSH and the Department of Labor claims from people who worked at different AEC/DOE sites across the country.

What makes the NIOSH and Department of Labor right and all of these other organizations wrong? Nothing.

The simple truth is this: NIOSH is staffed by former DOE and ORAU employees and subcontractors; they know full well that they are using inaccurate and/or falsified records for dose reconstructions. This leads to radically underestimated doses and claim denials. A clear conflict of interest exists which the Department of Labor has chosen to ignore and hopes none of us notices. Well, we’ve noticed.

The process was said to be “claimant-friendly.” Anyone who has ever filed a claim knows nothing could be further from the truth. This is shown not only by former President Obama’s own correspondence with the Department of Labor, NIOSH, and the Presidential Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health, but also by the following Congressional bills:

1) The Charlie Wolf Nuclear Workers Compensation Act – proposed to help former workers from the Rocky Flats, Colorado site;
2) The Ed Walker Memorial Act – proposed to help former workers at Bethlehem Steel, New York;
3) SB 1800, “To amend the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act [EEOICPA] of 2000 to provide compensation for certain persons injured in the course of employment at the Feed Materials Production Center (commonly referred to as "Fernald") or the Piqua Organic Moderated Reactor in Ohio.”

None of these laws ever got past the committee stage. In fact, they were assigned to committees which had no authority to send them to the floor for a vote. So the truth is that legislators will introduce bills to make their constituents think something will get done – but nothing will get done.

It is time to let the US Government hear our voices and to get something done.

The EEOICPA was signed into law under the Clinton Administration in 2000. The EEOICPA was supposed to be implemented under the Bush régime. Here’s what happened:

Initially, the Department of Energy spent $76 million on a contractor to process the claims - even though this contractor had no experience. An additional $20 million was spent supposedly processing claims, though none were paid. After that, the Department of Labor spent an additional $70 million to set up their claims processing system, which has proven to be just as flawed as, if not more flawed than, DOE’s. This was $166 million as of early 2009 (no doubt millions more have been similarly squandered) -- money which could have compensated over 1100 workers and/or families. In March 2010, the Government Accountability Office issued a report showing that another $163 million was spent on what are called “administrative costs” – money that could have gone to compensate 1086 workers and/or families. Instead, all we have is a department that pays pencil pushers and government contractors while ignoring the plights of nuclear workers and their families.

So this is what the Cold War Warriors have faced:

• Their own government – for which they sacrificed their health and their lives - prefers wasting millions more dollars on coming up with excuses for not compensating us instead of giving us justice, which would have been less expensive and time-consuming;

• Their own government – for which they sacrificed their health and their lives - will drag the claims process out for so long that they will either give up or die trying; and

• Their own government – for which they sacrificed their health and their lives - would like nothing better than for us still-living but sick and dying site workers to just go ahead and die.

Don’t believe me? Consider this: David Sundin, in his capacity as Deputy Director of the NIOSH Office of Compensation Analysis and Support, called us claimants “pigs” being swallowed up by the “python” claims process – a sentiment echoed by Andrew Slovak, who stated that “greasing is somewhat difficult and it doesn’t get you past the pinch point” (see Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health meeting transcript, May 19, 2003, pages 38 and 105).

NIOSH is like the python in that it does not have a leg to stand on. Indeed, the absurd dose reconstruction process NIOSH tries to pass off as “science” reminds me more of Monty Python than any peer-reviewed, published scientific study.

It is time to send a message to the US Government, which is supposed to represent us. It is time to stop wasting millions of dollars on coming up with excuses not to compensate us Cold War Warriors. It would be far simpler and cheaper to award us the compensation we deserve. It would definitely be more humane. (I am, of course, assuming there is someone in the government who still cares about human beings.)

I ask for consideration of the 178,739 people who thought they were serving their country by working at the Apollo, Buffalo, Burlington, Fernald, Hanford, Idaho National Laboratory, Los Alamos, Mound, Nevada Test Site, Oak Ridge, Paducah, Pantex, RMI, Rocky Flats, Savannah River, and other installations. They developed cancer, sometimes multiple cancers, due to their work at these sites. Many also developed illnesses because of exposure to hazardous waste and toxic substances.

It is not just the individuals alone who have been affected: assuming an average family size of four, there are 532,637 other people who are bearing the pain of their loved ones’ illnesses along with the agonizing frustration of denied claims and unresponsive, uncaring government agencies. As for us victims, quite a few are already dead. How many more of us have to die before there is a humanitarian change in the way we are being treated?

So please, tell Congress to cut the red tape and excuses. Compensate all workers at AEC or DOE production sites who got cancer or an illness related to toxic substance exposures. No more unscientific "dose reconstructions" based on inaccurate data.  No more forcing claimants to try and prove their illnesses.  Just compensate us.  Our compensation shall be in the amount of $400,000.00 per person, plus continuing and complete medical benefits as promised (but rarely delivered) under the EEOICPA. Note that the compensation amount has been adjusted for inflation and cost of living increases since the law was originally passed.

Why did our government collectively fund the bailout of large banks and corporations deemed “too big to fail,” despite their corrupt policies and inept practices, while those of us who labored in the fields of the bomb get nothing?

Apparently the EEOICPA is not considered “too big to fail.” I wonder our so-called representatives would reconsider if I were to replace the word “big” with “important.” This program is definitely too important to continue failing, as it has done since it was signed into law. It is time to ensure that we Cold War Warriors finally receive the compensation to which we are entitled.

The era of red tape and excuses needs to end.  Compensate us now.



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