Q. Why did you co-sponsor a Senate resolution designating October 30, 2010 as a day of remembrance for nuclear weapons program workers?
A. Since World War II, hundreds of thousands of Americans, many who assembled and disassembled nuclear weapons, have helped develop a nuclear arsenal to protect our country. Many of these men and women paid a high price for their efforts, including disability and serious, sometimes even fatal, illness.
Q. Is this the first time Congress has recognized nuclear weapons workers' contributions?
A. No, in 2009 Congress recognized the contributions and sacrifices these patriotic men and women made for America's safety. Since last year, a time capsule has been crossing the U.S., collecting artifacts and stories of nuclear workers. These stories and artifacts help reinforce the importance of recognizing nuclear workers.
Q. What have you done to help suffering nuclear workers?
A. In addition to cosponsoring the resolution that designated October 30, 2010, as a day of remembrance for nuclear weapons program workers, I've worked to see that the former workers are compensated for illnesses and suffering they incurred as a result of their work.
A decade ago, Congress established the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program. In 2003 and 2004, I uncovered waste and incompetence in the Department of Energy's administration of the program. While millions of dollars had been spent, few workers had received compensation. In response, in 2004, Congress passed my legislation to move the program from the Department of Energy to the Department of Labor. The Department of Labor was better equipped to process and handle a program like the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program.
When it was determined in 2005 that workers at the Iowa Ordnance Plant had not been adequately monitored for exposure to radiation, and that too few records existed to determine the level of exposure to radiation, I pressed the Bush Administration to approve a petition to add the Iowa Ordnance Plant to what was called the Special Exposure Cohort. This designation allows eligible claimants to be compensated presumptively based on their employment. Because of that designation, more than 1,700 claims have been paid to workers from the Iowa Ordnance Plant, providing compensation totaling $182 million.
Q. Are there any other covered facilities in Iowa?
A. The Ames Laboratory also is a designated worksite. Some who worked at the Ames Laboratory between 1942 and 1970 are currently eligible for compensation through the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program. To date, 274 claims for these workers have been paid totaling nearly $30 million. Also, workers employed at Bendix Aviation in Davenport in 1960, and workers at Titus Metals in Waterloo in 1956, may be eligible for compensation.