Program Seeks to Compensate Victims of Radiation Exposure

The Justice Department announced a new internship program that will employ students part-time to conduct intensive outreach efforts with Native Americans and their families whose work in the uranium industry during the Cold War benefitted the United States but exposed them to radiation and may entitle them to compensation under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). The internship will be based in the Four Corners region (Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona) and include a two-week training program in Washington, D.C., where college and graduate students will learn about the RECA Program, a compensation system established by Congress in 1990 and administered by DOJ’s Civil Division.

RECA seeks to compensate individuals who contracted certain cancers or other serious diseases after being exposed to radiation through nuclear weapons tests or work in the uranium mining industry between 1942 and 1971. Although the program has awarded compensation to individuals residing in every state, most applications are filed by people living in the Four Corners region. DOJ notes that culture, tradition, and custom sometimes present special concerns for Native American claimants that may make successful claims more difficult when compared with the general population of RECA claimants. Students will be recruited from tribal communities in the Four Corners region and will receive instruction in federal law, government service, and community outreach.

"The RECA program is an important part of the Attorney General’s commitment to this administration’s work in strengthening the nation-to-nation relationship with tribal governments," said Tony West, assistant attorney general for DOJ’s Civil Division. "We want to ensure that all eligible applicants have access to the RECA program, which is why we’re continually seeking to improve our outreach efforts. In addition to helping us reach those Cold War Patriots who are suffering and are entitled to compensation, this internship program will provide much needed summer jobs to bright students looking for an opportunity to serve."

Under RECA, people in the following claimant categories may receive payments: uranium miners, millers, and ore transporters; people who were present at nuclear weapons tests; and people who lived in certain areas "downwind" of the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. The law also requires sensitivity toward "established law, tradition and custom of the particular affected Indian tribe." The outreach efforts are intended to inform people about the program and help eligible claimants apply for payments.

West will speak to students at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz., about the RECA Internship on March 29, 2010. He will also speak to students at the University of New Mexico in Gallup, N.M., on March 30 and at Diné College in Shiprock, N.M., on March 31.

The RECA Internship will cover all travel costs as well as room and board for interns and pay a small stipend to cover incidental expenses. While the RECA program will sponsor the internships, a contractor, not the U.S. government, will employ the selected students.

In order to be eligible for the RECA Internship, applicants must be students in good standing. Two Washington, D.C., training sessions will be offered: June 7 to June 18, 2010, and July 26 to Aug. 6, 2010. The deadline for applicants for the June training session is April 15, 2010. The deadline for the July training session is May 1, 2010. Applications are available online at www.justice.gov/civil/Employment.htm, or interested students may contact RECA staff at (202) 616-4304 or civil.reca@usdoj.gov to have an application mailed to them.

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