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Charlie Wolf Act Press Release

April 2, 2009

April 2, 2009

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CWP News

From: Oliver, Leslie

Sent: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 1:01 PM

To: Oliver, Leslie

Subject: NEWS: Perlmutter Bill to Help Sick Nuclear Workers

Importance: High

U.S. Senate

U.S. House of Representatives


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

CONTACTS: Tara Trujillo (Udall) – 202-224-5941

Leslie Oliver (Perlmutter) – 202-274-7944

Lara Cottingham (Polis) – 202-225-5693

Udall, Bennet, Perlmutter, Polis, Salazar, and Coffman Introduce Bill to Help Sick Nuclear Workers

Charlie Wolf Nuclear Workers Compensation Act Would Help Cold Warriors from Rocky Flats and Other Weapons Sites get Help for Job-Related Illnesses

Washington, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, and Reps. Ed Perlmutter, Jared Polis, John Salazar, and Mike Coffman introduced the Charlie Wolf Nuclear Workers Compensation Act to improve a program designed to compensate workers who became ill because of their work at Rocky Flats and other nuclear weapons sites.

Named for Charlie Wolf, a former Rocky Flats employee who developed brain cancer related to his work at the site, the bill would make important changes to reduce the bureaucracy in the program and expand the list of cancers for which individuals are eligible to receive compensation.

While the compensation program was set up to help workers if they developed illnesses from exposure to radiation or other toxins on the job, workers have instead found their cases delayed for years by bureaucratic red tape.  Charlie Wolf and his wife Kathy battled the federal government for help for six years before Charlie died earlier this year – and his case still has not been resolved.  His struggles were documented by the Rocky Mountain News in a series of stories called “Deadly Denial.”

The lawmakers’ bill would fix the system by expanding the category of individuals eligible for compensation, improving the procedures for providing compensation and transparency, and granting the Office of the Ombudsman greater authority to help workers.

“With this bill we’re saying enough is enough.  We simply cannot and should not subject people who put themselves in harm’s way for our nation’s security to the kinds of obstacles and difficulties that they have been through,” Senator Mark Udall said.  “Charlie and workers like him are patriots and veterans of the Cold War.  We have a new Administration and a new focus here in Washington.  And it’s time to do right by these workers and help them get the compensation they have earned.”

“This is about justice.  These workers risked their lives to protect this nation and helped end the Cold War, and they are entitled to receive the proper health care and benefits for this unselfish sacrifice to our country,” said Rep. Ed Perlmutter.  “After years of delays and roadblocks under the prior Administration, we want to work closely with the Obama Administration to make sure these workers or their beneficiaries are granted eligibility for Special Exposure Cohort and promptly receive the medical care and benefits they’ve earned.”

“From engineers to cafeteria cooks, the workers at Rocky Flats and all cold war workers served our country under incredibly dangerous conditions and deserve better treatment from the government that put them in harm’s way,” said Rep. Jared Polis.  “This injustice has been pushed aside for far too long.  I am proud to join Senator Udall in his efforts and hope to use my seat on the Education and Labor Committee to advance these important reforms in the House.”

The Charlie Wolf Nuclear Workers Compensation Act makes significant changes in the current law governing compensation, including:

· Extending the “special exposure cohort” status to Department of Energy employees, Department of Energy contractor employees, or atomic weapons employees who worked at a nuclear weapons facility prior to January 1, 2006.  This will help make it easier for workers to establish that their radiation-linked cancer was the result of working at one of these facilities.

· Presuming that a worker with a covered radiation-linked cancer is eligible for

compensation.  This puts the burden of proof on the agency to show by clear and convincing evidence that a worker’s cancer was not caused by exposure while working at a nuclear weapons facility.

· Expanding the list of cancers for which individuals are eligible to receive compensation.  The current law fails to recognize some cancers that could legitimately be caused by exposure to toxic materials at these sites.

· Requiring the Department of Labor to pay a claimant’s estate should a claimant die after filing their claim – but before receiving payment and leaving no survivors.

· Expanding the duties of the Ombudsman’s Office, providing greater transparency and communication with claimants, and allowing more time to file legal actions should claims be denied.

· Allowing claimants who were previously denied to re-file their claims.