by Marylia Kelly / Tri-Valley CAREs –
CALIFORNIA (November 10, 2003) –Tri-Valley CAREs, a Livermore-based nuclear watchdog organization, is thrilled to announce that the just-concluded Energy and Water Appropriations conference committee has directed the Department of Energy to establish an Employee Field Resource Center in the Bay Area within 120 days of the bill’s enactment.
The Resource Center will assist current and former atomic workers at Livermore Lab and other California sites who have been made ill by on the job exposures to radiation, beryllium and other hazardous contaminants file for compensation under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act.
The Act, passed in 2000, provides for payment of up to $150,000 to eligible, exposed nuclear workers or their surviving family members. Many sick workers, however, have found high hurdles rather than compensation when they have sought to file claims. The application process can be daunting and laborious, and the needed records hard to come by.
“Sick workers deserve a local, permanent Resource Center instead of a phone number that rings in another state,” explained Inga Olson, Tri-Valley CAREs’ Program Director. “Many of the Livermore Lab employees and their family members with whom I work are having trouble with their claims. Often they need the kind of help a Resource Center can offer, such as making the DOE bureaucracy cough up necessary records.” Ms. Olson facilitates a support group for sick workers that has met regularly for more than a year.
Nuclear Workers Have Filed 1,619 Claims in California Alone
“It has been through the efforts of the workers themselves that this issue has received the Congressional attention it deserves,” Olson said. “I am delighted that help for them is now on the way.”
Tri-Valley CAREs extends its heartfelt thanks to the two Members of Congress who made it happen, Representative Ellen Tauscher and Senator Dianne Feinstein, who sat on the conference committee. “If not for the dedication, determination and leadership exhibited by Tauscher and Feinstein, we wouldn’t be getting a permanent Resource Center,” commented Tri-Valley CAREs’ Executive Director, Marylia Kelley. “This is an historic day — for it moves us one step closer to justice for sick workers.”
In the coming weeks, it will be important that sick workers and the community have a voice in the siting and staffing of the new Resource Center, according to Olson and Kelley. “The DOE has breached its most basic trust with employees both by exposing them to hazardous materials and by retaliating against whistleblowers and others who have attempted to correct problems,” stated Olson. “It will take time and genuine, long-term effort on the part of both the Energy and Labor Departments to rebuild trust with these sick workers and their families.”
According to Department of Labor statistics, that agency has already received 1,619 claims from atomic workers in California and has paid out more than $9 million. These numbers do not reflect the employee claims received directly by the Dept. of Energy.
Marylia Kelley is the Executive Director of Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment), 2582 Old First Street Livermore, CA 94551, (925) 443-7148 Fx: (925) 443-0177: www.trivalleycares.org , firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com