DOL Payments to Former Atomic Workers Exceed $4.5 Billion

Payments by the U.S. Department of Labor to former workers in America's atomic weapons industry have exceeded $4.5 billion, with 48,072 people having received money through the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. Congress gave DOL the task of administering the program to provide compensation and medical benefits to employees who got sick from chemical or radiation exposures in making atomic weapons.

"We got this program up and running in eight months by July 31, 2001, and I'm very proud that the department has processed more than $4.5 billion in benefits to workers and their families efficiently and with compassion," outgoing Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao said Jan. 16.

The department's Resource Center staffes now work one-on-one with claimants and health care providers to speed the delivery of medical benefits in this program, and a new Web portal allows medical beneficiaries to look up medical providers who have enrolled with the program. "The Labor Department continues to improve our claimant services, and we are paying eligible claimants as quickly and efficiently as possible," said Shelby Hallmark, director of the department's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, which administers the EEOICPA.

DOL began administering Part B of the program July 31, 2001. Part B covers current or former workers who have been diagnosed with cancers, beryllium disease, or silicosis and whose illness was caused by exposure to radiation, beryllium, or silica while working directly for the U.S. Department of Energy, its contractors or subcontractors, designated atomic weapons employers, or beryllium vendors. Part E, created on Oct. 28, 2004, provides compensation and medical benefits to DOE contractors and subcontractors who worked at covered facilities and sustained an illness as a result of exposure to toxic substances.

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