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[cdn-nucl-l] $643 million has been disbursed for radiation exposure!
The Americans have money galore!
Families struggle to get fed. payments for radiation exposure
August 1, 2003
BY TED SLOWIK
Two years after Congress passed a law meant to compensate workers who died
as a result of handling radioactive material during the Cold War, complaints
are being raised by families of workers who came into contact with uranium
at Blockson Chemical south of Joliet from the 1940s to the 1970s.
"They made it where it's virtually impossible to collect because of all the
stipulations," said Fred Cooper of Wilmington, whose father-in-law, Roy
Cupples, was a maintenance worker at Blockson and died of bladder cancer.
About 350 claims have been filed in Illinois by survivors of people who
worked at Blockson, the William E. Pratt Co. in Joliet, the University of
Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory.
Many claims are still being processed even though they were filed in 2001,
when Congress approved the Energy Employees Occupational Illness
Cooper and his wife submitted medical records about Cupples' illness and
documentation that he worked at Blockson. But now the government wants them
to provide proof that Cupples worked in a specific location at Blockson
where uranium was handled: Building 55.
The Coopers believe Cupples worked in Building 55, but so far they've been
unable to find the proof.
"A lot of people are very disgusted with the process,'' Cooper said.
Survivors of Blockson employees represent a fraction of people eligible to
claim part of the $1 billion the government set aside in the compensation
pool. To date, 17,500 applications have been filed nationwide, each seeking
$150,000 in compensation. So far, 9,800 claims have been approved and $643
million has been disbursed, said Ben Fallon, spokesman for Rep. Jerry Weller
Another 2,900 claims are pending, Fallon said.
Survivors can appeal the denial of a claim, he said. Of 886 appeals, 176
were approved upon further review, he said.
About 350 claims have been filed by people in Illinois. Eligibility for the
compensation program is extended to survivors of people who worked at
Blockson, the William E. Pratt Co. in Joliet, the University of Chicago and
Argonne National Laboratory.
With nearly two-thirds of the compensation pool exhausted, the Coopers feel
the government is tightening the purse strings. The program is being
administered by the U.S. Labor Department, though other agencies are
involved. In general, the Labor Department is surprisingly helpful in
administering the claims, said Richard Miller, a policy analyst with the
Government Accountability Project. He says other agencies aren't as helpful.
"I certainly understand the frustration these survivors are feeling," Miller
The Energy Department should have records of workers who had access to
classified areas like Building 55 at Blockson, Miller said. Survivors could
use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain those records from the Energy
Department, he said, though the Labor Department should seek that
information on its own.
The letter the Coopers received in mid-July was dated June 30 and said they
had 30 days to prove Cupples worked in Building 55.
"That's really unreasonable,'' Miller said.
Examples of proof include affidavits from co-workers, employment records,
accident reports and union files.