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Environment & Energy

U.S. Dept. Of Labor To Help Current And Former PA Nuclear Workers Find Resources

Current and former workers in the nuclear weapons industry are eligible for compensation due to illnesses caused by their job, but some may not know how to go about getting that compensation.

The U.S. Department of Labor is hoping to help by deploying its traveling resource center around the country. Wednesday it will make a stop in southwestern Pennsylvania outlining benefits available under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act.

“Part B covers current and former workers who’ve been diagnosed with cancer, beryllium disease or silicosis who were exposed to radiation, beryllium or silica during their employment either directly with the Department of Energy or any of the DOE contractors, subcontractors or with an atomic weapons employer or beryllium vendor,” said Rhoda Chappelle, Chief of the Branch of Outreach and Technical Assistance with the DOL.

Part E covers DOE contractors and subcontractors only, employees who worked at a covered facility and sustained an illness as a result of exposure to toxic substances.

“We’re basically a workers compensation program,” said Chappelle.

If a claim is approved under part B, an employee receives $150,000 in compensation and in addition they will receive medical benefits. Under part E, an employee receives wages lost, compensation and impairment benefits and medical benefits. Survivors are also eligible for compensation - $150,000 under part B and $125,000 under part E.

There are 25 covered facilities in Pennsylvania.

“Such as Alcoa in New Kensington, NUMEC [Nuclear Material and Equipment Corp.] in Apollo and Parks Township, we have Westinghouse and we have several facilities scattered throughout Pennsylvania,” said Chappelle.

The Traveling Resource Center will stop Wednesday at the Clarion Hotel in New Kensington from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. The compensation program also has stationary resource centers nationwide to assist workers, but the traveling version helps reach those who may not be able to travel to one of the permanent center.

To date, 1,013 claimants in Pennsylvania have received $111.1 million in Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act compensation and medical benefits. Nationwide, claimants have been paid $11.6 billion. Chappelle said it’s not clear how many people are eligible for benefits.

“We don’t have any idea because employees who are still working who may later become ill, may be entitled to compensation,” she said.

The 25 covered facilities in Pennsylvania can be found on the DOL's website.