IL Delegation Helps Sick Nuclear Workers Obtain Medical Benefits, Compensation
U.S. Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Barack Obama (D-IL) and U.S. Congressmen John Shimkus (R-IL) and Jerry Costello (D-IL) announced progress in their effort to secure compensation for nuclear workers at the Dow Chemical facility in Madison, Illinois. The workers were subjected to radiation as part of their work for the Atomic Energy Commission at the facility during the 1950s and 1960s, and a federal program has been established to compensate the workers for health problems stemming from this work.
Last week, the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health met in Denver to consider worker claims, and the special exposure cohort (SEC) petition was approved for 1957-1960, covering approximately 47 workers for a total cash payment of $7,050,000, or $150,000 each. The payments are tax exempt and workers would also get medical benefits for the conditions for which they are compensated.
In addition, the Advisory Board agreed to send an advisory opinion to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to investigate several issues the Illinois legislators raised relating to their belief that a residual contamination period for Dow workers (1961-1998) should also be covered, which they have been advancing for years. This is an important step toward the possibility that these additional workers could be compensated, which has never occurred before.
"The Board's decision was a belated but welcome victory for 47 men and women who sacrificed their health to defend us during the Cold War," said Senator Obama, who spoke to Advisory Board members on behalf of the Dow workers during the Denver meeting. "There remain dozens of workers who became sick because of contamination at the Dow site and at other plants around Illinois who still have not received assistance. The facts are on their side, and they deserve recognition, treatment, and compensation. I will continue to work with this bipartisan group of legislators to ensure that any workers whose health was impacted by these contaminated sites have their case considered by the Board."
"We owe these workers and their families better than what they have received so far. They are simply asking for a fair shake," said Durbin. "Their service and commitment under dangerous conditions cannot be overlooked. I am committed to ensuring that these claims are granted and I commend my colleagues for the work that they have done in bringing us to this stage in the process."
"I have personally met with many of these workers. In some cases, they have been waiting almost six years for a resolution to this matter. I am pleased with this first step and pledge to continue to work with my colleagues to have this residual period covered, as well," stated Shimkus.
"This is good news and we will continue to advocate on behalf of these workers and their families," said Costello. "They risked their lives on behalf of the United States doing extremely important and dangerous jobs, and their dedication should never be forgotten. This has been a painstaking process to gather the information needed to make this case, and I commend my colleagues and their staffs for their hard work."
Daniel W. McKeel, Jr., M.D, the lead Dow SEC petitioner added, "I am gratified as lead Dow SEC petitioner that the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health unanimously recommended the Dow 1957-60 SEC. The Board also unanimously approved a motion, for the first time among 79 SECs, to explore coverage of the residual radioactive contamination period from 1961-1998. The Dow workers well deserve this precedent setting move and Southern Illinois Nuclear Energy Workers urges a positive vote at the next Board meeting. It is a pleasure and honor to assist these true American heroes."