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Bennet, Perlmutter Urge Federal Government to Review Decision Denying Access to Compensation Program for Rocky Flats Workers Exposed to Plutonium
Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter (CO-7) today called on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to review the agency’s denial of a petition to add a new class of Rocky Flats workers previously excluded from a Special Exposure Cohort compensation program. The class of workers, employed by the plant from 1984 to 2005, were exposed to plutonium yet were denied inclusion in the cohort by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Following the denial, Rocky Flats workers filed a petition with HHS to review NIOSH’s decision. Recently, a HHS panel announced it would not overturn NIOSH’s decision.
“Over 600,000 Americans worked on our nation’s nuclear weapons program in the 20th Century, many located at the former Rocky Flats Plant. It is important we work to care for all these patriots as they develop cancers and illnesses related to their service to our country,” wrote Bennet and Perlmutter in the letter to HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan.
The petition presented to HHS called for creating a new class of workers for Special Exposure Cohort status who were employed by the plant from 1984 to 2005. Although these workers were present after plutonium production ceased, they were exposed to the chemical during their monitoring and remediation work. Under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000, Special Exposure Cohorts may be created for a class of employees who worked at a nuclear weapons complex site during a specified period of time and whose exposure records are limited and possibly non-existent. Inclusion in the cohort allows eligible claimants to be compensated without completion of a radiation dose reconstruction or a causation determination. Eligible employees must meet certain requirements, including being diagnosed with one of 22 specified radiogenic cancers and must have documentation that they worked at the site during the years identified in the class.
Rocky Flats was part of the nuclear weapons complex, administered by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), during the Cold War. From 1952 to 1989, more than 20,000 workers manufactured plutonium pits for nuclear weapons until the plant’s operation was suspended due to violations of environmental laws. The former site is near Arvada, Colorado and is now a National Wildlife Refuge.
The text of the letter is available HERE and below.
Dear Deputy Secretary Hargan:
We write regarding a recent decision affecting former nuclear weapons workers at Rocky Flats in Jefferson County, Colorado. We understand the three-person Health and Human Services panel reviewed the petitioners’ challenge and has decided to uphold the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) decision to not add a class of Rocky Flats workers to the Special Exposure Cohort (SEC). We respectfully request a review of this decision.
The petitioners, Terrie Barrie and Charles Saunders, filed SEC Petition 192 to add a class of Rocky Flats workers who were present on the former nuclear weapons production facility from January 1, 1984 through December 31, 2005. This filing was in response to a November 8, 2017 decision by NIOSH not to add this class of employees to the SEC. Plutonium pit production ended in 1989 but workers who were on site post-production were still exposed to plutonium during their monitoring and remediation work.
Over 600,000 Americans worked on our nation’s nuclear weapons program in the 20th Century, many located at the former Rocky Flats Plant. It is important we work to care for all these patriots as they develop cancers and illnesses related to their service to our country.
We appreciate the highly qualified individuals selected to serve on this panel and the time spent reviewing the petitioners request. We are also aware of a historic pattern of limited or inadequate documentation related to worker exposure at Rocky Flats. We believe there may be a case for overturning NIOSH’s decision and adding this class of Rocky Flats workers to the SEC.
We appreciate your full and fair consideration of this petition. Please do not hesitate to contact Tia Bogeljic in Representative Perlmutter’s office or Adzua Agyapon in Senator Bennet’s office if you have any questions.