Standing with former nuclear workers from western New York, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) took the federal government to task for not processing claims of 525 former nuclear workers or their survivors, and called on them to push the process forward immediately.
A report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) last week indicated that claims processing has “essentially stopped” at Linde Air and Linde Ceramics in Tonawanda, Hooker Electrochemical and Simonds Saw in Niagara Falls, and Bliss and Laughlin Steel in Buffalo.
“It simply boggles the mind that after these men and women got dangerously ill from helping develop the country’s nuclear weapons program, the federal government would turn its back on them,” Schumer said. “We have New Yorkers literally dying off as they wait for these payments that were promised to them. It’s time for the federal government to step up to the plate and deliver them the compensation they deserve.”
To date, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has yet to develop site profiles for the former Linde Air Products and Linde Ceramics in Tonawanda, Hooker Electrochemical and Simonds Saw in Niagara Falls, and Bliss and Laughlin Steel in Buffalo, all of which were involved in nuclear weapons-related activity during the Cold War. Last week, GAO’s report on the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICPA), reveald that the processing of claims associated with facilities that do not have site profiles has essentially stopped in some instances and NIOSH has not established a time frame for completing these remaining site profiles.
NIOSH asserts that site profiles are being developed, and has claimed it would establish time frames for their completion, but to date has not done so. The EEOICPA program has been in existence for four years and numerous western New York sites still do not have their site profiles completed, according to Schumer.
Schumer said that at Linde Air and Linde Ceramics in Tonawanda, a total of 270 claims are languishing at NIOSH because of incomplete site profiles. In Niagara Falls, at Simonds Saw and Steel, 144 claims are waiting at NIOSH; workers from Hooker Electrochemical have 76 claims in at NIOSH, while there are 35 claims from Buffalo’s Bliss and Laughlin, all waiting to be reviewed.
For decades during the Cold War, thousands of New Yorkers labored in hazardous conditions at DOE and atomic weapon employer facilities, unaware of the considerable health risks. During the Cold War, New York alone was home to 36 former Atomic Weapon Employer sites and DOE clean up facilities. In the eight counties of western New York, there were 14 facilities that participated in the manufacture of America’s nuclear arsenal.
“Our atomic weapons program workers are true Cold War heroes, and we need to get those workers the compensation that Congress promised them in 2000,” Schumer said.
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