The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Atomic workers continuing to die before claims process can help them


Thank you for coverage of the workers who were contaminated during their employment in the “Atomic City.’ Regarding a recent letter from Victoria Lipnic, the Department of Labor is handling claims better than the Department of Energy; however, the federal agencies continue to miss the point — or do they?

I am speaking as a “nuclear daughter,’ conceived while my father worked in contamination at the plant. My father passed away in March of this year after a lengthy battle with lung cancer. He was one of the lucky ones who received compensation for having a covered cancer under Part B.

During public meetings, sponsored by DOE and DOL, the most informative data came from workers or family members who relayed stories of exposure. Meetings were a reunion for many and validation of exposure-related illnesses.

DOL completed final regulations of Part E, which was signed into law in October 2004. Part E differs from Part B in that survivors must be spouses or minor children to receive compensation. It is apparent that most of the surviving children are now adults who become the caretakers of their very sick parents. Researchers are not examining cancer rates among spouses and children, nor of sick people living near the plant, though these issues come up at every meeting.

While DOL is starting to compensate sick workers under Part E, workers are continuing to die before their claims are processed. Exposure documentation at the plant was shoddy at best. It is important for workers to report on their claims the times they were “hot,’ a common term for radiation levels exceeding the “safe’ zone.

The delay and transfer to a more efficient agency still results in workers dying before anyone looks at their claims. If they die before their claim is processed and their spouses are deceased, there is no compensation under Part E unless there is a minor, an orphaned child, in the home. In other words, there is most likely no compensation.

Thank you DOL for processing claims ahead of schedule. You have a very tough job. I encourage those handling claims to have compassion when dealing with workers. These are very sick people, and claim duties for DOL will be over all too soon.