Today, U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, and U.S. Representatives Diana DeGette, Jared Polis, John Salazar, Betsy Markey, Mike Coffman and Ed Perlmutter joined together to send a bipartisan letter to the Obama Administration, asking reconsideration of a decision that greatly limited the number of former Rocky Flats employees covered under a compensation program for workers suffering from job-related illnesses.
During the Cold War, thousands of workers at Rocky Flats and other sites worked in virtual secrecy to build the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal. Many of those workers now suffer from cancer and other illnesses as a result of on-the-job exposure to dangerous substances. Under a program created by Congress, workers can get compensation for these illnesses. Unfortunately, a Bush Administration decision prevented many Rocky Flats workers from qualifying for a special designation, called a "special exposure cohort," under the program that would streamline the process for considering claims for compensation for their work-related illnesses.
In their letter, the lawmakers urged Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to reconsider the decision in light of new information revealed since the workers were denied, including discoveries about deficiencies in the methodology used to deny their petition, problems with a critical information database, and a report that suggests many more Rocky Flats workers were exposed to plutonium - a serious carcinogen - than previously thought.
"We believe that the three issues mentioned above are resulting in unfairly denied claims," the lawmakers wrote.
"It is our understanding that it has been over five years since the Rocky Flats SEC [Special Exposure Cohort] petition was accepted by NIOSH," the letter continues, referring to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. "In that time, we believe that NIOSH has had ample time to fully investigate the radiation exposures. That it has failed to do so gives us serious concern and underscores our request that HHS reevaluate this Rocky Flats SEC. The claimants should not be made to suffer any further."
"We believe that granting this Rocky Flats SEC will help avoid spending more money on administrative costs, including searching for DOE documents," the lawmakers conclude. "We also think this will help avoid having NIOSH correct the site profile deficiencies, which would then need to go to the Board and their contractor for review and acceptance, adding more administrative costs."