The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky

Friday, October 05, 2007

Chao criticizes time lapse in paying nuclear workers

More than 3,000 sick Paducah nuclear workers and their families have received roughly $405 million in federal benefits, but Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said many others have been waiting too long

"We recognize there have been problems with this program," she said at Thursday's Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Chao said her staff has urged other agencies -- especially the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health -- to quickly address the concerns to help people get paid more quickly.

"And for many of these families time is running out," Chao said.

Some former Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant workers have expressed frustration at waiting several years for their claims to be processed. A chief concern has been lack of old Department of Energy work records, particularly for subcontractors, that NIOSH needs to estimate chemical and radiation exposure.

DOE officials promised Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, in July that they were improving the records database.

He sought the response after getting complaints from Paducah area families.

The program has spurred finger-pointing in Congress. Capitol Hill hearings last fall produced evidence suggesting that the Labor Department and Office of Management and Budget schemed to control growth of the compensation program.

Agency officials denied the accusations.