The Bush Administration is one step closer to shifting agency control of a compensation program for sick nuclear workers.
The Office of Management and Budget has drafted an executive order that would move the program from the Department of Labor to the Department of Justice (DOJ)
Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, asked the White House to place the program under the DOJ because she said "it would be duplicative to create a new infrastructure when DOJ already has the tools to effectively implement and administer the program."
The proposed order, which must be signed by President Bush to take effect, would amend an order by President Clinton, who put DOL in charge, and defy Congress, which last year appropriated $60.4 million to DOL to start the program.
The program calls for payments of $150,000 plus medical care to workers with cancer or incurable lung disease caused by their exposure to radiation, beryllium or silica during the Cold War.
A bipartisan group of congressmen sent a letter to the White House last month asking that DOL keep the program.
"DOL was selected to run this program because it has administered a number of other federal worker compensation programs for as long as 90 years," said Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, one of the congressmen who signed the letter to the president.
Strickland is worried that his constituents with incurable illnesses will have to wait too long for compensation if the program is shifted to DOJ.
"These workers have waited long enough. Any further delay is intolerable and unacceptable," said Strickland.
by Virginia Sutcliffe