U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) will serve as the senior Republican member tomorrow during a key oversight hearing on a compensation program for sick nuclear workers to be held in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee.
This hearing, requested by Alexander this summer, will examine if the current compensation program is being administered in the claimant friendly manner Congress intended when it established the program in 2000 and reformed it in 2004.
Tennessee has more than 24,000 health claims – filed by more than 10,000 individual workers and/or their survivors – under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICPA). EEOICPA is responsible for identifying former nuclear weapons workers suffering from workplace-related illnesses who are eligible for compensation.
“We have twice the number of claims than any other state, so this is very important to Tennessee,” said Alexander. “We should be treating our Cold War veterans who worked at the Y-12 plant at Oak Ridge and other facilities with the same respect they have treated our country.”
Under the EEOICPA system nearly 5,500 Tennessee claims are still waiting for a final decision.
The HELP Committee hearing will include testimony from federal officials and health professionals. East Tennessee State University professor Ken Silver will testify at the hearing.
In 2000, Congress created EEOICPA to provide appropriate compensation and medical benefits to workers who contracted radiation-induced cancers, beryllium diseases or silicosis during the course of their work for the Department of Energy or its contractors.
Senator Alexander cosponsored legislation that became law in 2004 that transferred the responsibility of claims processing from the Department of Energy to the Department of Labor in order to enhance and speed-up the processing of these claims.