Senators Feinstein and Boxer Introduce Legislation Enabling Santa Susana Workers and Survivors to Receive Compensation For Illnesses Caused by Exposure to Radiation, Toxic Materials
Mar 25 2009
Washington, DC – Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (both D-Calif.) today introduced legislation that would enable former Santa Susana Field Laboratory workers or their survivors to receive compensation for illnesses caused by exposure to radiation and other toxic substances at the former nuclear and rocket test facility.
The Santa Susana Fair Compensation Act of 2009 would amend the Energy Employee Occupational Compensation Program, approved by Congress in 1999. This earlier law provides compensation to workers who developed serious illnesses as a result of working for the Department of Energy.
Since 2000, more than 600 former Santa Susana workers or their survivors have applied for benefits – mostly for cancers caused by exposure to radiation and other toxics. But only a few dozen claims have been granted.
The law currently requires that workers or survivors show that at least 50 percent of the claimed illnesses are attributable to workplace exposure. This is virtually impossible in the cases of many former Santa Susana workers, because of inadequate record-keeping at the facility.
The legislation introduced by Senators Feinstein and Boxer would ensure that Santa Susana workers or their survivors are able to receive benefits under the Energy Employee Occupational Compensation Program; allow for benefits up to $250,000; and allow Santa Susana workers or their survivors, who have previously been denied benefits, to reapply for compensation and medical benefits.
“The Santa Susana Field Laboratory was an important national asset during the peak of the Cold War and the early days of America’s space program,” Senator Feinstein said. “Unfortunately, many of the workers serving their country there were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation and other toxic substances.
And, to add insult to injury, they or their survivors are unable to receive compensation simply because record keeping at the site was either poor or nonexistent. People who serve their country should not be denied medical benefits and other compensation because of poor record-keeping. This legislation will change that, and will ensure that these workers and their families are justly compensated.”
Senator Boxer said, “This important bill cuts through the bureaucracy and red tape to give these people a fair shot at getting the help they are owed. I look forward to working with my colleague Senator Feinstein to ensure that these workers and their families are treated fairly.”
The Santa Susana Field Laboratory, located about 30 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, was founded in the 1940s. During the Cold War, it was used for the development and testing of nuclear reactors and powerful rockets, including those used in America’s space and ballistic missile programs.
Over the years, Santa Susana was the site of numerous accidents, including fires that exposed workers to dangerous levels of radiation, and a nuclear reactor meltdown in 1959.
The Santa Susana Fair Compensation Act of 2009 would:
- Amend Section 3621 of the Energy Employees Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000, to treat employees of Santa Susana Field Laboratory as members of the “Special Exposure Cohort” for purposes of qualifying for the Compensation Program;
- Make individuals eligible for benefits if they worked at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory for at least 250 days and developed a serious illness known to be a result of exposure to radiation or other toxins at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory before January 1, 2009;
- Provide lump sum payments of at least $150,000 to employees who contracted specific cancers from exposure to radiation, and up to $250,000 to employees exposed to toxic chemicals before January 1, 2009; and
- Allow previously denied Santa Susana Field Laboratory claimants under the Energy Employees Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000 the opportunity to reapply for compensation and medical benefits.