|From:||CPEO Moderator <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
|Date:||12 Apr 2002 13:51:56 -0000|
|Subject:||[CPEO-MEF] Justice for Cold War heroes|
Justice for Cold War heroes Instead of following Congress' intent to compensate Cold War workers for work-induced illnesses, the Energy Department is looking for excuses not to offer compensation, which ultimately could cut into nuclear weapons program and research budgets By Ben Ortiz and Ken Silver "Promises and pie crusts," goes the adage, "are made to be broken." It was all mom-and-apple-pie when Congress passed the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act just before Election Day 2000. Help was on the way for "Cold War heroes" made ill in nuclear weapons plants. We campaigned for the legislation and cheered its passage. But the Department of Energy's (DOE) implementation plan is hard to swallow. Congress called for an "efficient, uniform and adequate compensation" system for all nuclear weapons workers. Families impacted by beryllium disease, silicosis, or radiation-related cancer are entitled to lump sum payments of $150,000 and medical benefits through claims administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. Unfortunately, Congress balked at including "other toxic substances" -like solvents, asbestos, acids and heavy metals - in the federal compensation program. For DOE workers made ill from toxic substances, DOE is supposed to provide "assistance" through a Physicians Panel to help workers obtain state workers' compensation. If these doctors determine an illness to be chemically related, then DOE is supposed to order the contractor to pay up. Most DOE contractors, including Los Alamos, are self-insured. The federal government can simply reimburse the claims as an operating cost. However, a year-and-a-half after the law was signed, DOE has yet to issue final regulations. DOE's proposed rule will likely violate all three Congressional intentions. It's inefficient. It's not uniform across the DOE weapons complex. And the compensation will not be adequate. Nine members of Congress recently wrote a letter to Energy Secretary Abraham questioning whether DOE's proposed system is workable. The complete article can be viewed at: http://www.abqtrib.com/archives/opinions02/041102_opinions_silver.shtml
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