I am truly disappointed in the recent news that the Bush Administration, and the Justice Department in particular, has plans to reduce the number of former uranium miners who may qualify for expanded coverage under RECA. A past history of denials, IOU's, and general distrust of the system is being further confirmed by even the rumor of such action.
As an affected nuclear worker with Chronic Beryllium Disease, I have to wonder if there will be an attempt by the Administration to reduce or discourage coverage under the fledgling Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act. Throughout its conception, the Department of Energy and legislative supporters repeatedly insured that the burden of proof would be on the government, not on the often-dying workers, or their survivors. A bipartisan effort brought the EEOICA into reality, and scores of individuals, from legislators to laborers made this happen. The bill is far from perfect- the lump sum is about equal to a legislator's annual salary. Compare this to the amounts settled in the recent Ford/Firestone suits, and decide if justice is served. But it is a start, medical coverage may be there for some who desperately need it, and there are hard-working counselors and adjustors at both local and regional EEOICA offices, who are learning what a complicated scenario this can be. More realistic amendments are not out of the question.
The "Cold Warriors" have been studied, literally, to death, most through the government's 'inconclusive by design' programs. We need no more studies.
Those placed in harm's way must be cared for. Anything less will amount to little less than genocide. The fact that some of these workers smoked does not diminish their contribution to the Cold War, nor does it excuse the conditions under which they, as well as we, worked, most often unaware of the full dangers of our employment.
I have experienced a diminished quality of life and reliance on far too many medications, as a result of the work-related illness from which I suffer. I do not wish the next generation of workers to experience the same.
Nothing can restore the health of those of us who remain, or bring back the casualties who have passed on. But a conscience in government just might bring a much-needed trust to those of us who must look to Washington for any hope of justice. Please make it happen.
Beryllium Victims Alliance
504 Michigan Ave.
Oak Ridge, TN 37830