Chao Announces New Resource for Sick Nuke Workers

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao announced that the Labor Department will open\r\nresource centers across the country to notify workers exposed to radiation of their benefits.

After touring the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion plant last week, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, announced that the Labor Department will open resource centers across the country to notify energy workers of available benefits under a new program for workers who have been exposed to radiation.

"My sole concern is for the workers who have been wronged by their government in service of their country," said Chao. "They not only gave their labor -- many gave their health."

"We are striving to have the energy workers'' compensation program up and running as quickly as possible in an attempt to meet the statutory deadline," continued Chao. "We will be opening a Paducah resource center to help workers and families know about the benefits that may be available and to file their claims."

Chao said the Labor Department plans to open at least nine centers throughout the country.

The other resource center sites include: Hanford, Wash.; Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Savannah River, S.C.; Los Alamos, N.M.; Nevada Test Site, Nev.; Portsmouth, Ohio; Rocky Flats, Colo.; and Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, Idaho.

Chao also announced that the department will expand existing DOL workers'' compensation offices in Seattle, Wash.; Denver, Colo.; Cleveland, Ohio; and Jacksonville, Fla., to adjudicated and maintain cases under this new compensation program.

Chao visited the Paducah plant to see the facility and the cleanup effort first-hand. She also met with local union leaders and families who have been affected by workers'' radiation exposure.

The Labor Department''s nationwide outreach program will include the resource centers, a toll-free call center, a Web site with downloadable claim forms, site visits and a team to consult with the Department of Energy in its continuing former worker'' program.

Under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act, workers suffering from specified illnesses as a result of their exposure to radiation, beryllium or silica, are eligible to receive compensation and medical benefits.

Statutory provisions become effective July 31.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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