Nevada Test Site workers move closer to compensation

Former Nevada Test Site workers from the years of underground nuclear testing moved a step closer Tuesday to getting special status that will allow them to receive compensation for cancers without having to endure tedious dose reconstructions.

Dose reconstruction is a process of going back in time and trying to determine about how much radiation to which a particular worker was exposed.

But because much of the data for monitoring exposures to radioactive materials was lacking, a five-member work group voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend that a presidential advisory board approve special status for test site workers when the board meets in February.

“What we expect is the board will vote with the working group and recommend” special exposure cohort status, said Stuart Hinnefeld, interim director of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s Office of Compensation Analysis and Support.

Hinnefeld made his comments after the Nevada Test Site work group met in Cincinnati.

A favorable vote in February by NIOSH’s 16-member Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health would pave the way for former test site workers or their survivors to receive at least $150,000 apiece plus medical expenses.

The full board’s final decision must be accepted by the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Congress would have a chance to reject the recommendation, but sources close to the program have said that is unlikely.

If approved, Nevada Test Site workers who worked 250 days on site from 1963 to 1992 and have one or more of 22 cancers covered by the special status would stand to receive compensation. The special status would open claims for more than 500 workers, officials estimate.

Former workers or their survivors who have been denied compensation under the Department of Labor’s program for Energy employees would be allowed to have their claims reopened if they meet requirements for years and time worked on site and suffered from one of the listed cancers.

Those who don’t have one of the listed cancers can request partial dose reconstructions based on available monitoring data to prove that their cancers probably were caused by exposures to radioactive materials in the workplace.

For information about special cohort status, listed cancers and filing claims go to www.cdc.gov/niosh/ocas, or call 877-222-7570 to reach a public health adviser.

For questions about reopening claims that have been denied by the Department of Labor call 866-888-3322.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at krogers@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308.

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