Schumer Announces Final Fed Approval For Linde Ceramics Workers Under Nuke Worker Benefits Program

In November, Senator Called ON U.S.Dept of Health To Approve Linde Workers and to Use The Same Special Exposure Cohort Provision For Former Bethlehem Steel Workers Schumer: The Time for Justice is NOW for All Former Nuclear Worker especially Bethlehem Steel

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt has approved former Linde Ceramics workers for access to the Nuclear Worker Benefit Program via an administrative action known as a Special Exposure Cohort. Last month, in a letter to Secretary Leavitt, Schumer stressed his support of the Linde Ceramics case, and also urged Leavitt to support Bethlehem Steel workers entry to the benefits program under the same clause.

The Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health is the gatekeeper to the federal compensation program that was established as a method of providing justice for workers who were contaminated with radiation while they toiled in Americas nuclear program during the Cold War. The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grants final approval of that boards recommendations, and this decision is then forwarded to congress. However, if congress does not act on it in 30 days, the approval becomes law. I will fight to make sure this approval for Linde workers swiftly moves through congress, said Schumer.

This is great news for those who worked at Linde. These men and women bolstered the defense of our nation during a time of crisis and have been denied justice for far too long, Schumer said. But now its time for the Bethlehem Steel workers to be approved as well. We need to give New Yorks Cold War heroes the support they need and the compensation they deserve. Many former nuclear workers became ill developing the country's nuclear weapons program, and they should not have to wait a minute longer for help. We have been working so hard for so long to provide access to justice for former nuclear workers the time for them to get this help is now.

The Linde Ceramics decision was made using a clause which allows the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to grant a Special Exposure Cohort to workers if there is not enough information to estimate the radiation each worker was exposed to. In the case of Bethlehem Steel, NIOSH is using air sample data from Simonds Saw and Steel in place of Bethlehem Steel data to use in dose reconstruction. If using air sample data from a different factory shows a lack of information to conduct an accurate dose reconstruction, Schumer asserts that these workers should be awarded a Special Exposure Cohort as well.

During World War II and at the start of the Cold War, the federal government lacked the capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons in federal facilities and turned to the private sector for help. Workers at these facilities handled high levels of radioactive materials and were responsible for helping to create the huge nuclear arsenal that served as a deterrent to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Although government scientists knew of the dangers posed by the radiation, workers were given little or no protection and many have been diagnosed with cancer.

In his letter to Leavitt last month, Schumer said, By approving the Special Exposure Cohort for both facilities (Linde and Bethlehem), we can finally put the former workers on the path to getting the recognition and compensation they deserve, rather than have these beleaguered cold war soldiers battle with controversial dose reconstruction programs.

Senator Schumer has aggressively worked to get aid for former nuclear workers in Western New York. In an effort to compensate these workers, Congress passed legislation in 2000 that allowed them to file claims with the U.S. Department of Labor for individual payments of $150,000 and other benefits for medical treatments. Workers who got cancer caused by radiation exposure, beryllium disease or chronic silicosis after working at sites that performed nuclear weapons work during World War II and the Cold War were eligible. To file a claim, patients or their surviving families needed to provide proper documentation of their illness and employment history.

In November 2004, Schumer successfully secured a mandate from Congress that establishes a resource center intended to provide Western New Yorkers with the support that they need to effectively navigate the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program. Senator Schumer's language established a new resource center in Western New York that would help sick nuclear workers with their compensation applications. Schumer, who has lambasted the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) for only paying out ten percent of claims to New York nuclear workers, said that the resource center was vital to assist local nuclear workers with the application process. Last February, Schumer urged Mr. Shelby Hallmark, the Director of the Labor Departments Office of Workers Compensation Programs, for an accelerated timetable in establishing this center, and in July they opened an office in the Amherst Development Park.

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