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Public Statements

Obama Criticizes White House Plan to Cut Benefits to Nuclear Weapons Workers

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Obama Criticizes White House Plan to Cut Benefits to Nuclear Weapons Workers

U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today sent a letter to President Bush expressing his deep concern about press reports indicating that the White House is planning to cut benefits to men and women who developed cancer and other serious illnesses while helping the United States develop nuclear weapons during the cold war.

The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) was enacted in 2000 to provide compensation and medical benefits to employees who worked at certain Department of Energy facilities and nuclear weapons plants, including contractors, subcontractors, and some vendors. Under the EEOICPA, workers who suffer from certain radiation-induced cancers and diseases are eligible to receive $150,000 plus coverage of medical expenses.

According to press accounts, the White House will be leading an interagency working group to develop ways "to contain growth in the costs of the benefits" of this compensation program. This interagency working group will also discuss whether "administration clearance" should be required before groups of workers are deemed eligible for compensation.

In his letter to the President, Obama wrote, "If these press reports are true, the White House's plan demonstrates a startling lack of compassion for workers who sacrificed their health to provide for our national security. The Administration should be doing more to help these workers, not trying to make it more difficult for them to receive the benefits that they deserve."

Workers at 17 former Illinois nuclear weapons plants qualify under the EEOICPA. However, Obama said that statistics from three of these plants demonstrate the difficulty in obtaining compensation:

* General Steel Industries plant in Granite City - 408 cases have been filed, 1 has been paid.

* Dow Chemical plant in Madison - 164 cases have been filed, 2 have been paid.

* Blockson Chemical plant in Joliet - 195 cases have been filed, 8 have been paid.

Nationwide, of the 51,188 cases filed by former nuclear plant workers, only 11,829 - or 23% -- have been paid. However, this 23% figure is misleading because it does not account for the thousands of workers who do not know they qualify for the program or those workers who died before they could submit a claim.

Below, please find the full text of the letter:

February 17, 2006

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I am deeply disturbed by recent press reports that the White House is planning to cut benefits to brave and hardworking Americans who developed cancer from working on the nuclear weapons program during the Cold War.

The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) was enacted in 2000 to provide compensation and medical benefits to employees who worked at certain Department of Energy facilities and nuclear weapons plants, including contractors, subcontractors, and some vendors. Under the EEOICPA, workers who suffer from certain radiation-induced cancers and diseases are eligible to receive $150,000 plus coverage of medical expenses.

According to press accounts, the White House will be leading an interagency working group to develop ways "to contain growth in the costs of the benefits" of this compensation program. This interagency working group will also discuss whether "administration clearance" should be required before groups of workers are deemed eligible for compensation.

If these press reports are true, the White House's plan demonstrates a startling lack of compassion for workers who sacrificed their health to provide for our national security. The Administration should be doing more to help these workers, not trying to make it more difficult for them to receive the benefits that they deserve.

Nationwide, of the 51,188 cases filed by former nuclear plant workers, only 11,829 - or 23% -- have been paid. However, this 23% figure is misleading because it does not account for the thousands of workers who do not know they qualify for the program or those workers who died before they could submit a claim.

In Illinois, I have heard from many of my constituents about the problems they have experienced in filing claims and the red tape they have confronted over the years. Workers at 17 former Illinois nuclear weapons plants qualify under the EEOICPA. However, statistics from three of these plants demonstrate the difficulty in obtaining compensation:

* General Steel Industries plant in Granite City - 408 cases have been filed, 1 has been paid.

* Dow Chemical plant in Madison - 164 cases have been filed, 2 have been paid.

* Blockson Chemical plant in Joliet - 195 cases have been filed, 8 have been paid.

I urge you to implement changes to streamline and expedite the process for filing claims and receiving compensation. I also request that you release the White House document describing the new interagency working group. In addition, I will be calling for the relevant Senate committees to hold hearings on this important matter.

Mr. President, now is not the time to cut benefits for these former nuclear plant workers or put more bureaucratic red tape in front of them. These workers made a commitment to our country when the country needed them. Now it's our turn to help them in their time of need.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama
United States Senator

http://obama.senate.gov/press/060217-obama_criticizes_white_house_plan_to_cut_benefits_to_nuclear_weapons_workers/index.html

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