U.S. Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are renewing their efforts to expand restitution for Idahoans and Americans living downwind of atomic weapons tests or working in uranium mines. Crapo and Risch are joining Senators Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), Mark Udall (D-Colorado), Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) and Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) to introduce the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) Amendments of 2013. Companion legislation is also being introduced in the House by Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.-3).
April 19, 2013 is the 24th anniversary of the introduction of the original Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) in the U.S. Senate. Among other things, the RECA Amendments of 2013 would build upon previous RECA legislation by qualifying post 1971 uranium workers for compensation; equalizing compensation for all claimants to $150,000; expanding the downwind exposure area to include seven states downwind of the Nevada and Trinity Test Sites; and funding an epidemiological study of the health impacts on families of uranium workers and residents of uranium development communities.
"Idaho Communities and individuals that have been adversely affected by our nation's weapons programs must be justly and sufficiently compensated by the federal government," said Crapo. "Passage of this bipartisan legislation is crucial in ensuring Idahoans get the care they need."
"This bill once again seeks a fair resolution for those people impacted by the nuclear testing program, just as others in surrounding states have been provided. Idahoans deserve the same care and compensation because of the identical health effects," said Risch.
"We have seen the heartbreaking effects of those who sacrificed their health and lives by working or living near uranium mines and nuclear test sites in the mid-20th century," said Tom Udall. "Many Americans unwittingly paid the price for our national security, and unfortunately, some victims fell through the cracks in the original legislation. Expanding RECA will provide these individuals with recognition so that they can receive the much needed compensation they deserve."
Specifically, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2013 would:
Extend compensation to employees of mines and mills employed after Dec. 31, 1971. These are individuals who began working in uranium mines and mills after the U.S. stopped purchasing uranium, but failed to implement and enforce adequate uranium mining safety standards. Many of these workers have the same illnesses as pre-1971 workers who currently qualify for RECA compensation.
Add core drillers to the list of compensable employees, which currently only includes miners, millers and ore transporters.
Add renal cancer, or any other chronic renal disease, to the list of compensable diseases for employees of mines and mills. Currently, millers and transporters are covered for kidney disease, but miners are not.
Allow claimants to combine work histories to meet the requirement of the legislation. For example, individuals who worked for a short time in a mill and for a short time in a mine would be able to add that period of time up to meet the work history eligibility requirements for compensation. Currently, the Department of Justice makes some exceptions for this, but the policy is not codified in law.
Make all claimants eligible for an equal amount of compensation, specifically $150,000, regardless of whether they are millers, miners, ore transporters, onsite employees, or downwinders.
Make all claimants eligible for medical benefits. Currently, only miners, millers and ore transporters can claim medical benefits through the medical expense compensation program.
Recognize radiation exposure from the Trinity Test Site in New Mexico, as well as tests in the Pacific Ocean.
Expand the downwind areas to include all of Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Utah for the Nevada Test Site; New Mexico for the Trinity Test Site; and Guam for the Pacific tests.
Allow the use of affidavits to substantiate employment history, presence in affected area, and work at a test site. Current legislation only allows miners to use affidavits.
Return all attorney fees to a cap of 10 percent of the amount of the RECA claim, as was mandated in the original 1990 RECA legislation.
Authorize $3 million for five years for epidemiological research on the impacts of uranium developmenton communities and families of uranium workers. The funds would be allocated to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to award grants to universities and non-profits to carry out the research.
Allow in the miners, millers, core drillers, and ore transporters to file a Special Exposure Cohort petition within the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA). Other DOE workers are currently allowed to file such petitions for compensation when claims are denied and there is not enough information for NIOSH to do dose reconstruction to determine the impacts of exposure.