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Reps. Kirkpatrick, Luján Highlight Benefits Of Reca Amendments Act For Navajo Nation

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Representatives Ann Kirkpatrick and Ben Ray Luján highlighted the benefits of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) Amendments Act of 2010 for Navajo Nation. The legislation will expand compensation for many on Navajo Nation who were affected by uranium mining and nuclear testing.

Last week, Senator Tom Udall led a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce the legislation in the Senate, and Rep. Luján introduced companion legislation in the House. Rep. Kirkpatrick was an original co-sponsor of the legislation.

The legislation extends compensation to those exposed to radiation from December 31, 1971 to December 31, 1990; makes all claimants eligible for an equal amount of compensation regardless of whether they are workers, miners, or downwinders; expands the definition of downwind test sites and extends compensation to cover more workers and claimants.

"Washington needs to do the right thing for the families in my district, across Navajo Nation and throughout the Southwest who have been hurt so badly by uranium mining and nuclear testing. The thousands of people who were exposed to this great danger, many without their knowledge, deserve justice from the government," said Representative Ann Kirkpatrick, who represents western Navajo Nation. "I am honored to be fighting for this bill, which will help make sure folks who were harmed are compensated and treated with fairness and respect."

"Communities in New Mexico and Navajo Nation are still reeling from the legacy of uranium mining," said Representative Ben Ray Luján. "We must continue to fight for these Americans who have been impacted but are unable to receive compensation for their suffering. This legislation takes important steps to compensate workers, families and neighbors affected by uranium mining and nuclear testing--finally recognizing the sacrifices of many that have been invisible."

Read Rep. Luján's release on the introduction of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) Amendments Act of 2010 in the House of Representatives.

Read Senator Tom Udall's release on the introduction of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) Amendments Act of 2010 in the Senate.

The RECA Amendments Act of 2010:

* Makes all claimants eligible for medical benefits (equivalent to EEOICPA medical expense compensation.) Current compensation is $50,000 for downwinders or $75,000 for onsite participants, while federal employees, miners and millers receive a lump sum of $150,000 through RECA and EEOICPA together.
* Expands downwind test sites to include the Trinity Test Site and tests in the Pacific--including Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Guam. Currently compensation is only granted to those downwind of the Nevada Test Site.

* Extends compensation to employees of mines and mills who were employed until December 31, 1990 (year of enactment of RECA). The current final compensable date is December 31, 1971.
* Adds core drillers to the list of compensable employees.
* Adds renal cancer, or any other chronic renal disease (including nephritis and kidney tubal tissue injury), to the list of compensable diseases for employees of mines and mills. Currently millers and transporters are coved for kidney disease, but miners are not.
* Allows claimants to combine work histories to meet the requirements of the legislation (e.g., individuals who worked half a year at a mill and half a year in a mine would be eligible for compensation). The Department of Justice currently makes some exceptions for this, but there is no legislative governance on the issue.

* Allows for the use of affidavits to substantiate employment history, presence in an affected area (downwind state), or work at a test site. Currently only miners can use affidavits. The Attorney General has 180 days from enactment to issue revised regulations of RECA in accordance with this act.
* Allows for the resubmission of previously denied claims up to three times.

* Includes compensation for related attorney fees that fell between 2% to 10% of the amount of the awarded RECA claim.

* Authorizes $3 million for 5 years for a grant program administered by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Program provides for research on the epidemiological impacts of uranium mining and milling among non-occupationally exposed individuals, including family members of uranium miners and millers. Grants are to be awarded to universities with priority given to institutes in the southwest.

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