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New rules take effect for ill Hanford workers

January 25, 2010

January 25, 2010

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CWP News

By Annette Cary, Herald staff writer

Hundreds more ill Hanford workers or their survivors now should be eligible for $150,000 compensation from the federal government.

A special exposure cohort, a ruling that eases compensation rules for more Hanford workers, took effect this weekend after clearing a congressional waiting period.

Under the new rule, workers in any part of Hanford who may have been exposed to radiation should automatically qualify for compensation if they worked for 250 days from Oct. 1, 1943, through June 30, 1972, and developed certain cancers. The list of cancers includes more than 20 that have been linked to radiation exposure by medical research.

The new rule expands the number of workers who are eligible for automatic compensation. Previous special exposure cohorts covered only certain years in certain areas of Hanford.

Special exposure cohorts are formed by the Department of Labor when it determines that radiation exposure cannot be adequately estimated for groups of workers at Department of Energy nuclear sites during World War II and the Cold War, including the Hanford nuclear reservation.

If a worker does not fall into a special exposure cohort, the federal government applies a tougher standard for compensation, trying to determine if the worker’s cancer had at least a 50 percent chance of being caused by estimated exposure to radiation on the job.

The federal government already has identified 340 pending claims of Hanford workers or their survivors who appear likely to qualify under the new rule. All are claims for workers who have covered cancers and who worked at Hanford sometime from 1943-72.

In addition, past claims that have been denied will need to be reviewed to determine whether they now qualify for compensation.

Cancers that qualify, with some restrictions, include bone cancer, rectal cancer, some leukemias, some lung cancers, multiple myeloma, some lymphomas and primary cancer of the bile ducts, brain, breast, colon, esophagus, gall bladder, ovary, pancreas, pharynx, salivary gland, small intestine, stomach, thyroid, urinary bladder and liver.

Some secondary cancers — those that spread from primary cancers such as prostate cancer — also are covered. They include lung, bone and kidney cancer.

Claimants should make sure their files are up to date if they have been diagnosed with additional cancers since they filed their initial claim with the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program under the Department of Labor.

Individuals can contact the Hanford Resource Center to make sure their files are up to date or to file a claim at 946-3333 or 888-654-0014.

If workers or their survivors do not have one of the covered cancers or worked at Hanford later than 1972, they still may file a claim and their radiation exposure will be estimated to see if they qualify. Workers can file for any type of cancer. In addition to the $150,000 payment, medical expenses also are covered for the approved condition if compensation is awarded.

In addition a second part of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program, Part E, offers additional compensation and medical coverage for a wide variety of illnesses caused by exposure to radiation or other hazardous chemicals at Hanford, such as asbestos. Workers can receive up to $250,000 for impairment and wage loss under Part E, which may be in addition to the $150,000.

More than $508 million has been paid to workers at Hanford and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland or their survivors under the program.

— Annette Cary: 582-1533; [email protected]