In Paducah, Ky., Monday, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao opened the first of 10 Resource Centers designed to help injured energy workers receive compensation from the federal government.
"Today is a major step forward in America''s commitment to the well-being of our nuclear industry workers and their families," said Chao. "It is a tragedy that more was not done to care for these injured workers sooner. But I''m proud ... to open this Resource Center so we can start processing these claims as quickly as possible."
The Resource Centers will offer personal assistance in filing claim forms for the Energy Employees Occupational Injury Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA), passed by Congress in October 2000.
EEOICPA pays $150,000 lump-sum compensation and related medical expenses to workers who became seriously ill from exposure to radiation, beryllium or silica while working in the nuclear weapons industry for the Department of Energy, including its contractors and subcontractors.
Compensation will also be available to some survivors and to uranium employees who are eligible for benefits under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.
The Departments of Labor (DOL) and Energy, which jointly operate the centers, will also open locations in Las Vegas, Nev.; Richland, Wash.; Rocky Flats, Colo.; Espanola, N.M.; Idaho Falls, Idaho; North Augusta, S.C.; Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Anchorage, Alaska; and Portsmouth, Ohio.
DOL is also conducting town hall meetings in 25 locations across the country through the end of July to explain the program to nuclear weapons industry employees.
by Virginia Sutcliffe