Center for Sick Atomic Workers Opens Its Doors

August 8th, 2004 - by admin

Inga Olson / Citizen’s Watch — Tri-Valley CAREs – 2004-08-08 22:06:17

LIVERMORE (August 2004) — A long overdue step on the road to justice for sick atomic workers was taken on July 12, 2004, with the opening of a new Resource Center in Livermore. Though the official ceremony will take place later in the year, the center’s doors are open, the phone is on, and the work can begin.

We are elated that sick workers from the Livermore Lab and other Dept. of Energy (DOE) facilities in the area now have a permanent location and staff to help them apply for compensation and medical benefits. People who are ill with cancer, chronic beryllium disease or silicosis due to on-the-job exposures, and certain family members, can apply to receive a payment of $150,000 and medical care costs. Workers with other diseases or exposures to other toxic poisons can get help applying for State Workers’ Compensation benefits.

Tri-Valley CAREs has offered its expertise as an advocacy center for the sick workers since 2001 when the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation program began. We have conducted outreach to DOE workers and the public about the program, helped people apply for compensation, and facilitated a support group for sick workers. We will continue this work, and expect that the opening of a permanent Dept. of Labor/DOE Resource Center will mean additional outreach and assistance to workers.

Kudos to Rep. Tauscher and Sen. Feinstein
The siting of a Resource Center in Livermore is the result of public and congressional efforts. Tri-Valley CAREs and leaders of the sick worker support group (with special kudos going to Joyce Brooks, Linda Gallego, and Gerry Giovacchini), along with other support group members, conducted letter writing campaigns, made phone calls, held meetings with DOE and Labor officials in Washington and generally raised “hell” to get a permanent Resource Center located in the community.

Our Rep. Ellen Tauscher and our Sen. Dianne Feinstein were key in passing legislation to mandate the center and provide the funds to set it up, and we thank them.

Tri-Valley CAREs, the sick worker support group and the Society of Professional Scientists and Engineers, which represents workers at Livermore Lab, recruited top-notch candidates to apply for employment positions at the Resource Center. The government chose not to hire any of them. Still, we three groups know the extreme need for services for sick and dying atomic workers, and we are giving the Resource Center and its staff every opportunity to prove their worth.

Tri-Valley CAREs and the other organizations will work with the Resource Center to ensure that the center acts to the full extent of its authority to mount a vigorous outreach program to the DOE labs, other employers, contractors, healthcare providers, unions and community groups so that all eligible workers and family members throughout the State will understand their right to apply for compensation and services.

We expect, also, that the Resource Center will help workers secure copies of their employment and exposure records. In addition, we hope the center’s services will extend to helping the workers find appropriate legal and medical specialists to answer questions about their exposures and diseases and such things as where to get the proper tests for beryllium sensitivity.

The ‘Special Exposure Cohort’ Rule
Another “next step” for Tri-Valley CAREs will be to identify whether there are areas at Livermore Lab and Sandia Lab that might qualify the workers under the “Special Exposure Cohort” rule. This designation can be made if the workers were contaminated and there was inadequate monitoring or record-keeping.

Certainly, these things have been true at the weapons labs, the hard part will be convincing a government bureaucracy that doesn’t want to hear it. If we succeed in getting a special cohort designation, it could expedite payment of claims. This is important because the government has done an abysmal job so far in paying any awards.

At Livermore and Sandia Labs, most workers’ claims have been referred to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and are waiting for individual dose reconstructions. In many cases these claims have been sitting at NIOSH for 1 to 3 years.

Currently, NIOSH is working at Livermore Lab to complete a site-wide dose reconstruction. We are collecting stories from workers about accidents, exposures and hot areas to make sure that NIOSH doesn’t overlook important information, for example due to poor records.

Current or former employees of Livermore Lab, Sandia, Livermore, the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Lawrence Berkeley Lab or any of the other 31 covered facilities in CA who have information about accidents, exposures, monitoring or record-keeping deficiencies, please call Inga Olson at the Tri-Valley CAREs’ office (925) 443-7148.

The Resource Center for Sick Workers is located at 2600 Kitty Hawk Road, Suite 101, Livermore, CA 94550 (take Airway Blvd. Exit off I-580). The phone is (925) 606-6302.

Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment) 2582 Old First Street Livermore, CA USA 94551. (925) 443-7148 (phone), (925) 443-0177 (fax).