During the early twentieth century, thousands of workers employed in the U.S. nuclear weapons industry were exposed to harmful chemicals, toxins, and heavy metals with high levels of radiation as a part of their jobs. To help compensate workers who were injured as a result of their exposure, the federal government created The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA).
Who Can File?
The EEOICPA only compensates nuclear weapons workers who were employed by the Department of Energy (DOE) after 1941 and became ill as a result of exposure to harmful chemicals at work. Eligible individuals can obtain lump-sum payments and health benefits if they satisfy a specific set of criteria. Possible beneficiaries include current employees, former employees, contractors, and subcontractors.
If a worker is deceased, his or her surviving family members may also be able to receive compensation. The EEOICPA is made up of two benefit programs, known as Part B and Part E. Under Part B, employees or their survivors can receive a lump-sum payment of up to $150,000 and reimbursement for full medical expenses. Beneficiaries under Part E can receive the even larger sum of $250,000. Additionally, those who qualify under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) may be eligible to receive the smaller sum of $50,000.
Only workers who satisfy certain requirements can obtain compensation under the EEOICPA. In order to qualify, an applicant must have been diagnosed with cancer or another illness caused by chemicals and have worked at a covered DOE facility. Specifically, an employee must have sustained a on of the following diseases while employed by the DOE, an atomic weapons employer, or a beryllium vendor:
- Specific cancers;
- Chronic silicosis;
- Beryllium sensitivity, or
- Chronic beryllium disease.
The surviving family members of a deceased worker can also file a claim on that person’s behalf. However, the definition of survivor differs depending on whether a claimant is filing under Part B or Part E. Under Part B, survivors can include any of the following individuals:
- An eligible worker’s spouse, as long as the couple was married for at least one year;
- A worker’s child if he or she has no living spouse;
- An eligible worker’s parent if he or she has no living spouse or child;
- A worker’s grandparent if there is no living spouse, child, or parent; and
- A worker’s grandchild if there are no other surviving relatives.
The definition of a survivor is more restricted under Part E, which only covers:
- The spouse of a worker if the couple was married for at least a year;
- If there is no surviving spouse, children who were younger than 18 years old at the time of their parent’s death;
- If there is no surviving spouse, children up to the age of 23 years old if they were in college at the time of their parent’s death; and
- If the worker is not survived by a spouse, any children if they were unable to work due to a medical disability at the time of their parents’ death.
Eligible parties may also be able to obtain compensation for illnesses caused by radiation exposure under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), which compensates uranium miners, millers, ore transporters, or their beneficiaries for certain diseases. This program also covers individuals who lived downwind of nuclear testing locations and nuclear-test participants.
Contact a Healthcare Professional
Although nothing can replace a loved one lost as a result of exposure to radiation or toxic chemicals, obtaining compensation can go a long way towards helping families avoid the additional stresses caused by unpaid bills and mounting medical debts.
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In order to be eligible for EEOICPA/RECA benefits, an individual must have been employed at a covered Department of Energy facility, an approved atomic weapons facility, or at a permitted beryllium vendor. An individual must also have one of the covered conditions as a result of exposure to radiation, beryllium, or silica while employed at an accepted facility. In addition, uranium miners, millers, and ore transporters are eligible for benefits if they develop an illness as a result of exposure to toxic substances (such as radiation, chemicals, solvents, acids, and metals) and worked at a facility covered under RECA. Eligibility requirements vary by location and condition.