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Money is available to help former 'nuclear' workers.

Byline: Aaron Nicodemus

I f you or a loved one has cancer or some other terrible diseases, and worked at a local company that processed nuclear weapons in the 1940s and 1950s, there is a pot of gold waiting for you.

Workers who worked with nuclear material at several local facilities -- Norton Co. in Worcester, Wyman Gordon Inc. facilities in Worcester and North Grafton, Reed Rolled Thread Co. in Worcester, Heald Machine Co. in Worcester, and La Pointe Machine and Tool Co. in Hudson -- and contracted cancer or lung disease are eligible for a lump sum $150,000 payout, as well as coverage of all their medical care.

If the worker has already died, their spouses, their children and grandchildren are still eligible to receive the lump sum payment.

"It's kind of an obscure program that no one has ever heard of,'' said Rachel P. Leiton, director of the Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation within the U.S. Department of Labor.

Established in 2001, the program was created through an act of Congress to provide compensation to employees who were sickened by coming in contact with radioactive material while working on nuclear weapons programs for the U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE.

To date, $65.7 million in compensation and medical benefits has been paid to 722 individuals living in Massachusetts; $26.8 million has been paid to 250 individuals living in Connecticut; and $11 million has been paid to 102 individuals living in Rhode Island. A total of $10.4 billion has been paid nationwide, according to a press release from the agency.

A searchable list of covered facilities is available at

I wrote about this program for the T&G in 2009, when the federal government announced that 19 former employees of the Norton Co. who have cancer -- perhaps caused through exposure five decades ago to nuclear materials such as uranium and thorium -- will receive compensation and benefits from the federal government.

But there still may be more eligible employees out there, Ms. Leiton told me this week from her office in Washington, D.C.

"We are trying to make sure that people out there, who might be eligible, have heard about the program,'' she said. "We want them to file a claim.''

The program "covers current and former workers who have been diagnosed with cancer, beryllium disease or silicosis, and whose illness was caused by exposure to radiation, beryllium or silica while working directly for the DOE, that department's contractor or subcontractors, a designated Atomic Weapons Employer, or a beryllium vendor,'' stated the Department of Labor's press release on the issue. The program "provides federal compensation and medical benefits to DOE contractors and subcontractors who worked at covered facilities and sustained an illness because of exposure to toxic substances.''

There are two information sessions coming up next week for workers and their loved ones to find out more about the program.

The first will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, June 18, at Bristol Community College, 11 Field St. in Attleboro.

Another session will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, June 19, at the Courtyard by Marriott, located at 4 Sebethe Drive, Cromwell, Conn.

Now, there is really no way to fully compensate someone who contracted cancer because of where he or she worked. And now, more than 50 years after the exposure, there probably are not many workers left to file a claim.

But their relatives might be able to receive an unexpected $150,000 for the suffering of their loved one. For more information, call the New York Resource Center of the Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation at (800) 941-3943.

Aaron Nicodemus can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @anic89.
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Title Annotation:Business
Author:Nicodemus, Aaron
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 15, 2014
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