Raising the specter that the foxes are guarding the hen house, Representative John Hostettler (R – IN) has written the investigative arm of Congress to ask whether the private contractor responsible for running the government’s compensation program for former nuclear facility workers is capable of producing unbiased scientific assessments that influence decisions about workers’ medical claims.
Specific questions were raised about the quality of the scientific analysis performed by contractors employed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities that purported to assess exposure risks at the Hanford (WA), Oak Ridge (TN), Rocky Flats (CO) and Paducah (KY) sites. In the latter case, a revision of the initial report has already been ordered.
The appearance of impropriety arises from the fact that, in some cases, the person who prepared the assessment is the same person who served as a witness against the workers’ compensation claims under an earlier administration when the government denied liability in these cases. Five years ago, after the government admitted it had exposed tens of thousands of workers to dangerous radiation, the Department of Energy (DOE) established the compensation program to compensate victims within a specific framework and with certain limitations.
Many Laborers are pursuing claims under the program. In all, nearly 73,000 workers or their survivors have filed claims.
Dr. Jim Melius – the Administrator of the New York State Laborers’ Health and Safety Trust Fund, the Research Director at the LHSFNA and a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee that oversees the program – also raised questions about possible impropriety, saying, “It’s so critical for this program to be credible. Claimants must have confidence that the people who were responsible for the often ineffective or deceptive monitoring in the past are not now the ones passing judgment on the claimants’ exposures and their compensation.”
Hostettler is chairman of a House subcommittee that deals with the claims of citizens against the government. He responded after complaints from some unions that represent workers formerly employed in the nuclear facilities. He asked for the investigation to determine whether Oak Ridge Associated Universities has policies that are “sufficient to ensure that conflicts or biases do not taint the credibility and quality of the science produced to date.”
For more information about the program see Feds Act to Correct DOE Compensation Problems and Final Energy Employee Occupational Illness Compensation Regulations.