Petition for workers OK'd

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Lab: Approval could pave the way for compensation, health care

By The Staff

A federal advisory panel has approved a petition that would pave the way for hundreds of sick Los Alamos workers to get compensation and health care.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health approved the petition Tuesday granting what is called “Special Exposure Cohort” status to all LANL workers who developed radiation-related cancers as a result of working at the lab between January 1976 and December 1995.

SEC status eliminates the need for claimants to undergo the often arduous dose reconstruction process in which the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) determines if a cancer is work-related.  This week’s decision has the potential to benefit hundreds of LANL claimants.

A previous petition covering workers from March 1943 to December 1975 was approved in May of 2007.

If approved by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Congress, workers who qualify will receive a lump sum payment of $150,000 and health care coverage to treat their illnesses.

In welcoming the advisory decision Udall credited LANL Security Guard Andrew Evaskovich for submitting the petition and advocating for former and current LANL workers.

“The approval of this petition will bring closure for many of my constituents who are sick and dying while awaiting a determination on their claims,” Udall said. “I commend Andrew for his relentless efforts to move the SEC forward and thank NIOSH and the Advisory Board for recognizing the need to compensate these cold-war heroes for their efforts on behalf of our nation. I will be urging Secretary Sebelius to promptly approve this SEC. There has already been too long of a delay.”

“Many of my constituents who have suffered illness and health problems due to their work at LANL have been negatively impacted by the delayed action on this petition,” Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) said.

“Today’s favorable decision by the board will move this critical process forward and represents a key step toward helping the men and women who played an important support role at LANL. I want to thank Andrew Evaskovich for his tireless efforts on this petition as well as NIOSH and the board for taking action.  With hundreds of LANL employees who appear likely to qualify for compensation under a SEC class — and who have been affected by long periods of inaction that have hurt them and their families – today’s decision has been long awaited.  It is still important, however, that further investigation is done swiftly to support the petition for those who worked at LANL between 1996 and 2005.”