Cold War Heroes Overcome Major Hurdle in Battle for Just Compensation

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., Tuesday applauded a federal advisory panel’s approval of a petition that could pave the way for hundreds of sick Los Alamos National Laboratory workers to receive compensation for their service.
The panel, called the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health, approved a petition Tuesday granting “Special Exposure Cohort” (SEC) status to all LANL workers who developed radiogenic cancers after having been employed for at least 250 days from Jan. 1, 1976 to Dec. 31, 1995.
A previous LANL SEC petition covering workers from March 15, 1943 to Dec. 31, 1975 was approved in May of 2007. That petition was submitted by Harriett Ruiz, widow of the late New Mexico State Rep. Ray Ruiz who worked at LANL and died of lung cancer.
SEC status eliminates the need for claimants to undergo the arduous dose reconstruction process in which the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) determines if a cancer is work-related.
This week’s decision has the potential to benefit hundreds of LANL claimants.
The petition now requires the approval of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. If endorsed by the secretary, the SEC petition will then be sent to Congress for a 30-day review and printed in the Federal Register before taking effect.
If the SEC petition is enacted, as is now expected, those who qualify will receive a lump sum payment of $150,000 and health care coverage to treat their illnesses.
These benefits will be made through the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA), which became law in 2000.
In welcoming the advisory decision, Udall credited LANL Security Guard Andrew Evaskovich for submitting the petition and advocating for former and current LANL workers.
“The approval of this petition will bring closure for many of my constituents who are sick and dying while awaiting a determination on their claims,” Udall said. “I commend Andrew for his relentless efforts to move the SEC forward and thank NIOSH and the Advisory Board for recognizing the need to compensate these cold-war heroes for their efforts on behalf of our nation. I will be urging Secretary Sebelius to promptly approve this SEC. There has already been too long of a delay.”
Evaskovich submitted his SEC petition in 2008 on behalf of ‘service support employees who worked in areas at LANL with a history of radioactive material use from Jan. 1, 1976 through Dec. 31, 2005.’
Since 2008, NIOSH has been evaluating the petition and after a lengthy review, determined that there are not adequate personnel monitoring data to complete sufficiently accurate radiation dose reconstructions for the covered class.
NIOSH shared its report with the Advisory Board at its meeting this week in Denver, and the Board approved a petition that will cover not only service support workers, but ALL employees of LANL from 1976 through 1995.
NIOSH and the Advisory Board will continue to evaluate whether workers from 1995 through 2005 merit Special Exposure Cohort status.
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