In addition to the $9 million the bill allots to the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant cleanup, it includes kidney cancer as a compensatory disease.
By Joe Walker firstname.lastname@example.org
The Senate approved the measures Tuesday night by a vote of 98-1. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, said the Supplemental Appropriations Bill included his request for $18 million in plant cleanup funds — $9 million more than contained in the House version — and his amendment to include kidney cancer in the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act.
A conference committee will work out differences in the House and Senate bills. McConnell said he anticipates "a speedy resolution," noting that the funding is above $78 million already provided for plant cleanup this fiscal year.
However, the combined amount of $96 million falls about $30 million short of what the Department of Energy needs next fiscal year toward a 2010 deadline to clean up most of the plant's contamination.
In the original compensation act, passed as part of the 2001 Defense Authorization Bill, kidney cancer was not on a list of diseases qualifying for compensation. McConnell said the amendment guarantees benefits to workers with kidney cancer.
"The goal of the original legislation we worked so hard to pass last year was to establish a program which benefitted all deserving employees, and this takes yet another step in that direction," he said through a news release.
Current and former workers and some survivors are eligible for $150,000 lump-sum benefits if they have been diagnosed with specific types of cancer assumed to have been caused by work at the Paducah plant. Those employees also are eligible for reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical expenses from the date they file their claim.
A Department of Labor claims center opened July 2 in the Barkley Center at 125 Memorial Drive, off U.S. 62 near Paducah Community College and Interstate 24. It is the first of 10 centers nationwide to help nuclear weapons workers file claims under the new program.
Although workers are encouraged to fill out forms now, processing is not expected to start until July 31. The first checks should be in the mail in late summer, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said earlier.
Eligible survivors include a spouse or children who were child dependents at the time of the worker’s death. That generally excludes surviving children who were older than 18 when a worker died.