-- Samantha Power
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EEOICPA requires that claimants fulfill an arduous burden of proof before a claim will be approved. A claimant must prove employment, the toxic chemicals or radionuclides to which s/he was exposed, and provide scientific data establishing causal links between their exposures and particular diagnoses. Over the course of 60+ years, many worker and facility records have been lost or destroyed. Department of Labor (DOL) imposes challenging time frames on claimants to provide the information, and in many cases, families of deceased workers don't know how to begin to unravel the mysteries of the past. Across the nuclear complex, our nation's security relied on the secrecy of its workers, and often, surviving family members have many questions but few answers. CORE Advocacy works with advocates, site historians, toxicologists, and has access to research databases where historical information can help piece together the past. We have established relationships with agency representatives who are familiar with our efforts and desires to assist claimants. We know who to contact and where to look for information that could be vital to your EEOICPA claim. When you work with CORE Advocacy, you have the support and resources of advocates and others across the country.
Many workers kept work-related mementos and memorabilia throughout their employment. They may have held onto their work badges, time cards, check stubs, photographs, notes, memos, or commendation certificates and awards. Any of these items, no matter how seemingly insignificant, could be instrumental in proving work location or job duties, which could be further traced to workplace exposures. CORE Advocacy can help you determine the significance of such items; in some cases, we'll even help you go through your garage to find them!
At some facilities, more may be understood about site history than at others. Some sites have certain classifications, known as "Special Exposure Cohorts," which enable EEOICPA claimants to qualify for benefits and compensation with greater ease by lessening the burden of proof placed upon them. Other facilities, like Santa Susana Field Laboratory (at left), are considered to be complex sites with difficult history. At times, EEOICPA policy has been based on inaccurate information that must be corrected. CORE Advocacy understands how the information must be provided, and has seen representatives of DOL, DOE and NIOSH work together to correct outstanding issues when they are properly identified and brought to their attention.
CORE Advocacy challenges existing EEOICPA policy when site history demands legislative correction. We fight for workers whose claims are difficult due to site complexities that require concerted research and effort to prove. Our goal is to help workers, and to improve EEOICPA so that it can function in the way that Congress intended; to end the need for workers to require advocates and Authorized Representatives. In the meantime, we are here to provide our help.
At some facilities, site history must be corrected as more information is revealed, resulting in a need to change legislation.
Photo, courtesy of RocketdyneArchives.com.
When EEOICPA was first enacted, it was assumed that only nuclear weapons workers would have been at risk of exposure to radiation or toxic chemicals. The term, "nuclear worker," was naturally adopted to describe someone eligible for EEOICPA compensation. But, the term is misleading because it is now understood that, given the history of the nuclear complex, it is not possible to determine a worker's risk by job title alone. There were many workers with "safe" job titles or duties that had nothing to do with handling nuclear weapons material, but they were put in harm's way nonetheless. However, since many do not believe that the term "nuclear worker" applies to them, they may not file an EEOICPA claim. The only way to be sure that your job at a DOE Facility did not expose you to radiation and/or toxic chemicals is to thoroughly review worker records. Many are surprised to discover that they, too, are "nuclear workers" eligible for EEOICPA. Some of the job titles that have, in many cases, been included into EEOICPA are: aerospace personnel, firemen, secretaries, janitors, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, guards, laundry personnel, and others. Wondering if you may be eligible? We can help you find out.
"Nuclear Workers" were not always tasked with building weapons. Here, workers in the laundry measure for radioactivity.Photo, DOE.gov.
The Energy Employee Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) is a federal program enacted by Congress in 2000. Its purpose is to compensate sick nuclear workers (or eligible surviving family members) when it is determined that a worker's cancer or other illness is "at least as likely as not" related to exposure to radiation, beryllium, or toxic chemicals. EEOICPA covers over 300 Department of Energy (DOE) facilities across the country, from WWII to the present. In some cases, EEOICPA may provide medical benefits in addition to lump-sum compensation.
EEOICPA was enacted when Congress determined that workers of DOE Facilities faced uniquely hazardous risks of exposure, often without their knowledge or consent. Previously-secret records revealed that some worker exposures were never documented, records were poorly kept, and throughout our nation's nuclear history, DOE contractors have often been held harmless for worker exposures. Studies show workers of the nuclear industry have an increased risk of dying from cancer and other diseases related to toxic chemicals, beryllium, and radiation and that 98% of radiation-induced cancers in nuclear workers occurred at radiation levels less than the existing maximum "safe" levels.
EEOICPA was enacted by Congress in 2000. Workers of nearly 300 DOE sites across the country are eligible to apply. Photo, DOE.gov.