SCHUMER, CLINTON, SLAUGHTER: FEDS REFUSE TO REVIEW SEC APPLICATIONS FROM COLD WAR-ERA EMPLOYEES PLAGUED BY LIFE-THREATENING ILLNESSES AS A RESULT OF RADIATION EXPOSURE - DEMAND FEDS CONSIDER REQUESTS FOR COMPENSATION
Cold War-Era Linde Employees Who Handled Radioactive Materials Frustrated After Years of Denied Compensation - Workers Left with Burden of Proof for Radiation Exposure Feds Refuse to Review One of Two Petitions Asking that Linde Employees Be Included in Government Program Providing Special Compensation New York Congressional Leaders Send Personal Letter to Nation
As the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced they will review only one of the two petitions submitted by former Linde Ceramics employees for worker compensation, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, along with U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter today demanded in a personal letter that the Administration grant the same level of review to both appeals and provide the necessary compensation to Linde workers. Former Linde employees who worked at the plant during the Cold War filed a request for compensation after being exposed to unhealthy levels of radiation from the U.S. Department of Energy's nuclear weapons program, but their appeals have failed to be acknowledged.
To ensure the voices of the Linde employees are heard, Senators Schumer and Clinton and Congresswoman Slaughter wrote a personal letter to the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health Chairman Paul Ziemer asking for immediate administrative review of the worker's requests.
"It is cruel and unnecessary that our injured Cold War heroes have had to fight battle after battle for justice and compensation, long after the war has ended," said Senator Schumer. "It is incomprehensible that workers from 19471953 who were exposed to dangerous radiation have been denied review of their SEC petition and yet workers who worked after this time from 1954 until 2006 were granted a review-Both sets of workers deserve the same consideration and speedy review of their SEC applications. I urge the department to immediately begin the administrative review process so that these workers can receive the compensation they so justly deserve."
"Time and again the men and women of Linde Ceramics have been forced to jump through bureaucratic hoops to get the compensation and benefits they deserve, and yet it seems that NIOSH is still placing roadblocks in their path towards completing this process," said Senator Clinton. "Our government failed them years ago - allowing these unsung heroes of the Cold War to unknowingly be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. The Linde workers have done everything that has been asked of them, and it is time to step up and take care of these people who have sacrificed their health and wellbeing in the defense of our country. I strongly urge the agency to immediately reverse their decision, and I will continue to fight to ensure that the former Linde employees receive a fair review of their petition."
"The former workers of the Linde Ceramics plant helped to protect and defend our nation for future generations, sacrificing their health in the process," said Rep. Slaughter. "It is baffling to me that those who worked in the six years between 19471953 have seen their petition for Special Exposure Cohort status denied, while those who worked in same the facility in the years preceding and following, and presented the same evidence, have seen their petition granted. We have a tremendous obligation to repay these brave workers and I will continue to fight to ensure that they receive the compensation they deserve."
Former workers at Linde submitted two petitions for application to the SEC for the periods of 19471953 and 19542006 under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA), but as of June 28 of this year, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) only agreed to give the later one the necessary review.
During World War II and at the start of the Cold War, the federal government lacked the capacity to manufacture weapons in federal facilities and turned to the private sector for help. Workers at these facilities, including several in Western New York, handled radioactive materials. 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.
Workers subjected to the radiation have submitted request for SEC qualification. Achieving SEC status would eliminate the significant administrative burdens placed on workers that nationwide have resulted in the denial of 68% of claims for compensation for these courageous men and women who dedicated their lives to the government in the war effort and were then forgotten.
NIOSH is responsible for accepting petitions to add classes of employees to the SEC under EEOICPA. Currently, the EEOICPA is requiring workers to prove that their cancers resulted from radiation exposure. Workers have no fair and equitable chance to navigate this program and the only way for Linde workers to overcome this fundamental unfairness is to have the Linde facility designated as a SEC. As an SEC, eligible workers could be compensated without having to prove causation.
In the letter to Chairman Ziemer, Senators Schumer and Clinton and Congresswoman Slaughter wrote, "The men and women at Linde sacrificed their own health and well being for the advancement and security of our country at a time when we needed it most. It is unthinkable that the government would do anything to jeopardize their compensation or call into question our profound gratitude for all that they did. Today is an opportunity for the federal government to step in and ensure these heroic workers receive the compensation they deserve, and we will fight tooth and nail to see it through."
A full copy of the letter is below:
July 10, 2008
Mr. Paul L. Ziemer
Chairman, Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health
Office of Compensation, Analysis, and Support
4676 Columbia Parkway, MS C46
Cincinnati , OH 45226
Dear Mr. Ziemer:
We write today in support of the former workers of Linde Ceramics Plant in Tonawanda, New York. People who worked at Linde Ceramics between 1947 and 1953 have filed a request under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) to be included in the program's Special Exposure Cohort (SEC). On June 28 of this year, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) declined to review their SEC qualification. Please immediately commence an administrative review and reversal of this decision.
Former workers at Linde have submitted two petitions for application to the SEC for the periods of 19471953 and 19542006, and NIOSH has rightly agreed to give the later one the necessary review. We urge you to grant the same review to the workers who worked at Linde between 1947 and 1953 as you give to the workers who came after them. It is incomprehensible to me that workers from 19471953 who were exposed to dangerous radiation during key operational phases of the Linde site have been denied review of their SEC petition and yet workers who worked after this time from 1954 until 2006 were granted review. Both sets of workers deserve the same consideration and speedy review of their SEC applications. Please also contact the designated representative for the Linde workers, Antoinette Bonsignore, to communicate the process by which independent administrative review occurs. Ms. Bonsignore may be reached at (425) 5589110.
We would also like to share our disappointment with the handling of a particular step in this process. When Ms. Bonsignore, on behalf of the petitioners, was notified of this denial, she was told she had 30days to appeal and then subsequently told by another party that it was 10days. She learned of this 10day deadline on the 10 th day and therefore scrambled to be sure the deadline for appeal was not missed It is our opinion that a clamaintfriendly process, as EEOICPA mandates, ought to keep petitioners clearly informed of their options for appeal at every step and be certain that miscommunications like this do not occur.
The men and women who worked at Linde Ceramics have suffered ill health because of the U.S. Department of Energy's nuclear weapons program. They are the casualties of the Cold War, and it is the government's obligation to protect them. Please, immediately begin the administrative review process so that these men and women can receive the compensation they so justly deserve.
We look forward to your reply to our questions and to any information that you may have about the Linde Ceramics SEC petitions. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Sarah Bermingham, of Senator Schumer's staff, at (202) 2246542; or Senator Clinton's office, at (202) 2244451 and Congresswoman Slaughter's office at (202) 2253615.
Larry Elliott, Director, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Laurie Bryer, NIOSH SEC Petition Counselor
Dave Sundin, Deputy Director, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
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