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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Udall, Perlmutter, Polis Repeat Call for Passage of their Bill to Help Cold War Workers get Care for Job-Related Illnesses

Lawmakers Still Fighting for Bill Named for Charlie Wolf, Former Rocky Flats Worker, who was Denied Compensation for Fatal Brain Cancer

Lawmakers Refocus Effort after Wolf’s Family Denied Compensation Yet Again

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Mark Udall, with Congressmen Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis, repeated their call for Congress to pass the Charlie Wolf Nuclear Workers Compensation Act, to help Cold War workers from Rocky Flats and other nuclear weapons facilities get help for cancer and other illnesses they developed as a result of exposure to radiation and other hazardous substances on the job.  The bill is named for Charlie Wolf, a former worker at Rocky Flats, who fought for years – unsuccessfully – to get compensation he deserved under a government program.

This month, over a year after Wolf’s death and eight years after he first filed his claim, the government yet again recommended that his family be denied compensation, saying he had still not proven that radiation exposure caused his illness.  Wolf is one of thousands of workers whose cases have been held up for years by bureaucratic red tape and foot-dragging.  His struggles were documented by the Rocky Mountain News in a series of stories called “Deadly Denial” as well as a PBS special on Cold War workers.

Senator Udall called the latest denial “unconscionable.”

“Charlie’s family has been through enough already.  His illness clearly was related to his work with nuclear materials – and his family has gone above and beyond to prove so.  To continue to deny his family compensation is outrageous,” Senator Udall said.  “What more do the Wolfs have to go through?  Victims of cancer and serious illnesses shouldn’t have to fight this hard for compensation they deserve.”

“Charlie and workers like him across the country are patriots and veterans of the Cold War,” Senator Udall continued.  “I had hoped that with a new Administration and a new Congress, things would change, and that’s why I’m again calling for passage of my bill as soon as possible.  It’s long past time to do right by these workers.”

Congressman Perlmutter said: “Charlie, his family and thousands of Colorado’s former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility workers played an integral part to enhance our national security.  The nation owes a special debt of gratitude to them for their dedication and commitment to excellence in building and maintaining our nuclear arsenal.  These workers earned the right to a fast and fair process to improve the processing of claims for these eligible workers.  That is why we urge the Senate and House to pass our bill, the Charlie Wolf Act, as soon as possible.”

“I am deeply disappointed that Charlie’s family was again denied their rightful compensation.  It is shameful that this debate has gone on this long,” Congressman Polis said.  “The men and women who worked at Rocky Flats have sacrificed their health and safety for the protection of our nation and deserve just compensation for that service.  I join my colleagues in calling for the speedy passage of the Charlie Wolf Act and reforming the Department of Labor to ease further unnecessary suffering and hardship.”

The lawmakers’ bill would fix the system by expanding the category of individuals eligible for compensation, improving the procedures for providing compensation and transparency, and granting the Office of the Ombudsman greater authority to help workers.

The Charlie Wolf Nuclear Workers Compensation Act makes significant changes in the current law governing compensation, including:

• Extending the “special exposure cohort” status to Department of Energy employees, Department of Energy contractor employees, or atomic weapons employees who worked at a nuclear weapons facility prior to January 1, 2006.  This will help make it easier for workers to establish that their radiation-linked cancer was the result of working at one of these facilities.

• Presuming that a worker with a covered radiation-linked cancer is eligible for compensation.  This puts the burden of proof on the agency to show by clear and convincing evidence that a worker’s cancer was not caused by exposure while working at a nuclear weapons facility.

• Expanding the list of cancers for which individuals are eligible to receive compensation.  The current law fails to recognize some cancers that could legitimately be caused by exposure to toxic materials at these sites.

• Requiring the Department of Labor to pay a claimant’s estate should a claimant die after filing their claim – but before receiving payment and leaving no survivors.

• Expanding the duties of the Ombudsman’s Office, providing greater transparency and communication with claimants, and allowing more time to file legal actions should claims be denied.

• Allowing claimants who were previously denied to re-file their claims.

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