News From USW: Denial of Expedited Compensation and Medical Care to Rocky Flats Workers Shows Need for Legislative Remedy -- More Than 22,000 Former Workers Impacted by Denial

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News From USW: Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt's decision to deny expedited compensation and health care to former Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons plant workers in Colorado shows the need for reform of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000.

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Our Cold War veterans who sacrificed their health - and some their lives - for our security have been denied by their government again

    "Our Cold War veterans who sacrificed their health - and some their lives - for our security have been denied by their government again," said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. "We will take every avenue possible to help the former Rocky Flats employees and all sick nuclear workers get the expedited compensation and medical care they deserve."

The USW will sign on in support of the petition Rocky Flats advocates are drafting to appeal the Secretary's decision.

Leavitt ruled that Department of Energy (DOE), contractor or subcontractor employees who were exposed to radiation from 1967 through 2005 did not meet the statutory criteria for addition to the Special Exposure Cohort (SEC). He determined there was sufficient information and records available to estimate workers' radiation doses with sufficient accuracy. Ill employees who worked at Rocky Flats from 1952 to 1966 were given SEC status because many were not monitored for their neutron radiation exposure.

By not being part of the SEC, over 22,000 former Rocky Flats workers will have to individually prove their radiation exposure caused their cancers. Meeting the statutory criteria is not easy. Applicants have to undergo a long, bureaucratic process that often takes several years. Many die before being awarded compensation. One in 10 Rocky Flats workers who qualified for compensation died before receiving it. Nationally, more than 60 percent of the 72,000 cases processed were denied.

Having data alone does not guarantee that it is accurate. Nuclear workers tell of having to toss their badges or use their last reading or co-worker's data when the radiation exposure reading was too high.

"It is a crime that the government denies these sick nuclear workers the compensation and medical care they so desperately need," said USW District 12 Director Terry Bonds. "The Bush administration is willing to spend billions to wage an unpopular war in Iraq while it denies assistance to nuclear workers who gave their lives to this country."

The USW represents over 850,000 workers in the U.S., Canada, Virgin Islands and Aruba and is the largest industrial union in North America.

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Lynne Baker
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