Thursday, August 30, 2001 - Sick uranium workers who already have been approved for government compensation will get their money.
The Bush administration said this week it will ask Congress if more study is needed to determine whether some workers who contracted illnesses after working in Cold War-era nuclear weapons programs qualify for compensation.
But a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, who has been active on the compensation issue, said any changes would have to be approved by Congress. Blain Rethmeier said the administration will not be able to stop any benefit payments that have already been approved.
"Anyone who's filed a claim and been accepted will get their money," Rethmeier said. "Any sort of postponement of payment is not going to happen."
The studies will look at whether exposure to uranium and silica dust in the mines caused the illnesses. It could be six months to a year before the research is finished. The results could affect future claims.
The victims are concentrated in the Rocky Mountain West. In July, there were 71 Colorado claimants - miners, "down-winders" or their survivors - with IOUs worth $6.5 million.
There are also claimants in Utah (191), Nevada (68), Arizona (47) and New Mexico (42).
Critics say any delay means more eligible workers will die before payments arrive.
"They've been stonewalling, and it's a crying shame," said Ed Brickey, president of the Colorado Uranium Workers Council. "We have people who are dying because of where they worked."