With the enactment of legislation to compensate workers who contracted beryllium disease, radiation-related cancer or chronic silicosis through their employment during the Cold War at Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear facilities, the focus has shifted to filing claims and winning compensation.

The Presidential Advisory Board on Radiation and Health advises the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and other agencies on the implementation of the compensation program. Dr. Jim Melius, Administrator of the New York State Laborers Health and Safety Trust Fund, serves on that board.

As with other compensation systems, the process can be difficult and time-consuming. Initial claims are filed with the designated DOE resource center that, then, forwards the claim to the Social Security Administration (SSA). According to Midwest Regional Health and Safety Fund Director Angie King, members should expect to wait four weeks after a claim is filed for the SSA to get back to them. Also, DOE will not waive the SSA’s $15 filing fee nor the $2.50 administrative fee for each work year employment record requested by an applicant.

“The resource centers are helpful,” says King, “but because of privacy concerns, they will not share information among claimants. If we assign someone to assist, our members can learn more about how other claims are handled and how they are assessed by the reviewing authorities.”

The compensation legislation, passed in 2000, will result in a payout of $1.4 billion in benefits by 2010. Workers or survivors who prove their illness was more likely than not caused by exposures at a DOE facility will receive a lump sum payment of $150,000 plus compensation to cover the on-going cost of medical treatment. For some sites, compensation is virtually automatic, but at other sites claimants must show for how long and at what particular jobs they worked in order to demonstrate the cause of their problems.

Energy Employees Compensation Resource Centers

SiteToll-Free Telephone
Augusta, GA866-666-4606
Espanola, NM866-272-3622
Idaho Falls, ID800-861-8608
Las Vegas, NV866-697-0841
Oak Ridge, TN866-481-041
Paducah, KY866-534-0599
Portsmouth, OH866-363-6993
Richland, WA888-654-0014
Anchorage, AK888-908-4070
Rocky Flats, CO866-540-4977

[Steve Clark]