Janet Michel Speaks from Oak RidgeWhen the Coalition for a Healthy Environment (CHE) began meeting in 1996 as a result of suspect illnesses reported by the workers of the Oak Ridge facility, we found that most doctors did not take us seriously and would not test us. If they did test, they did not recommend treatment. We speculated that they were either uneducated in toxicology or had a fear of liability.
When we met with attorneys, we were told we needed to have a doctor say that our illness was connected to our workplace. We found none. We speculated the reasons for the issues mentioned above was due to fear in a company town. This fear was very real as one physician. He had been actively recruited to assist with growing numbers of rare cancers, was run out of town when he spoke to the head of the Medical Division at ORNL and to the public.
After the Department of Labor's outside physicians found illness and workplace connections (for me that was 13 years after becoming sick), attorneys told us it was too late. We should have known about the connection ourselves and filed for state workers' compensation.
Obviously, we needed physicians to test and treat us.
Before the EEOIPCA, the legal route chosen by the beryllium workers (one of the easier illness-workplace connections to make) resulted in a halt at the Cincinnati Court of Appeals, which declared "discretionary function." The Department of Energy spent millions fighting this claim while still denying any liability.
When unions were first allowed to organize at the Oak Ridge sites, it was admitted that the work was ultra hazardous. However, according to DOE, no one was ever exposed or harmed. Incidents were downgraded and covered up . Yet, billions of dollars had been allocated to clean up the environment.
CHE attempted to work with the prime contractor (Lockheed Martin Energy Systems) the local DOE office, the state of Tennessee, many Federal agencies and got nowhere.
With little medical help and no legal help, attention turned to Congress. We began making trips to Congress in 1997 meeting with our representatives and eventually with representatives from other DOE areas. We wrote 100's of letter to newspapers, agencies and Congress. Finally the Editor of The Tennessean (newspaper) assigned two reporters who spent a year documenting DOE workers and surrounding DOE communities across the country. This prompted DOE to begin an investigation.
David Michaels was sworn in by Congress as the new Assistant Secretary of Environment, Safety and Health and, on the same day, was handed a plane ticket to East Tennessee with the assignment to talk to the sick workers. He spent five hours with the workers in a conference room, never interrupting a single person. When Dr. Michaels completed his interviews around the country, DOE issued its draft of the compensation law. Months of negotiating began. At first, we were allowed to see drafts and we spent many hours reviewing and commenting, giving the worker perspective in an attempt to educate Congress. Eventually, we were shut out of the process. When Congress seemed stalled, we met with John Podesta, Chief of Staff to President Clinton. This meeting convinced Clinton to request that Congress act.
After many trips to Congress meeting with Representatives, Senators, and staff, in the Old Executive Office Building with Vice President's Domestic Policy staff and in the White House with staff, we felt everyone had received the message that things had to change. The law passed in October 2000 was not perfect, but it was a place to start.
We always felt that we needed a place that would provide the missing support from our community. We needed a Federal law.
Shortly after the law was passed and signed, the Secretary of Labor said publicly that DOL did not want the program. DOL took an extraordinary amount of time to issue draft regulations, review public comments, issue final rules and implement the program.
Claimants have faced rude claim examiners, inconsistent decisions, delayed compensation and medical care, so that many have deteriorated and died.
This is an abbreviated account of CHE's involvement with EEOICPA, told to show our knowledge of the roots of the law and the program.
When we continue to witness poor and inconsistent judgment from DOL, NIOSH in EVERY facet of the program, we know that the intent of Congress has not been followed.
Even with many hurdles from the relevant Federal agencies and changes to the law, we now feel that 13 years is long enough to wait for the agencies to act within the spirit and letter of the law.
Why Can't ORAU Do Its Job?
Angleque Myers Bryson
I am disgusted with the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) dose reconstruction program. ORAU cannot even conduct a phone interview despite the fact that these people are just clerks and NOT industrial hygienists or health physicists. Apparently, these clerks are such busy, busy people
I have begged ORAU for a faster time frame so that my cancer riddled husband will be able to tell his exposure history. Nine months have passed but they were too backlogged. Now they have snow. They had snow last week and had to change the appointments then. I guess before that they must have had another reason like, the sun was shining.
So they can't expedite the process when it snows. I feel they base the dose reconstruction results on faulty science and they want to extend their contract. And now it appears ORAU might be rewarded again for doing such a miserable job because NIOSH is considering renewing their contract
Now, I grew up with Father Pollard, the founder of ORAU, and he taught me physics and helped with my youth group at church. He told me he went back to seminary after making the bombs as a way to try to understand the energy that was unleashed and that the power had to be from God because man could not ever measure it, much less monitor what he had tapped into. I truly believe that Father Pollard would never state that a dose reconstruction is an exact science. He would question and study and even minister to the victims but not play with numbers when monitoring was never adequate.
My own father told me, "You can eat the stuff and it wouldn't harm you," when I was young. Then, years later he told me DOE had lied to him about beryllium because he could see that the illness that kept me from playing with my children was indeed from my exposures. He not only participated in beryllium studies but knew they had changed a report to take blacks and women out of the population to show a lesser incident of victims. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2099330/ In his last days he pleaded for my forgiveness, which I readily gave, because he did not know the truth; he did not ask the right questions and he did not question altered reports. The reason for this is because DOE always used National Security as a defense for killing their workers.
This is the Science ORAU bases their dose reconstruction upon
I feel that if NIOSH gives the contract back to ORAU it can only mean one thing.........we will finally have proof that all this stalling is just to wait the workers out until they die. How do these people live with themselves? How can they know the claimants are dying from horrible diseases and yet have the nerve to cancel interviews because snow is in the forecast?
DEEOIC--It’s Time to Stop Ignoring History
Department of Labor (DOL) and Division of Energy Employee Occupational Illness Compensation (DEEOIC) have been ignoring evidence provided by advocates and claimants that could result in the need to reopen wrongfully denied Energy Employee Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP) claims and that illustrates a need to expand eligibility requirements for workers of Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL).
SSFL’s Area IV is covered under EEOICPA, while Areas I, II and III are not. The rule is based on the idea that nuclear operations were exclusive to Area IV, while rocket engine testing remained exclusive to Areas I, II and III. The assumption of total and complete separation between North American Aviation’s (NAA) nuclear and rocketry divisions (Atomics International & Rocketdyne), projects, workers, and areas serves a dual purpose, providing conveniently rigid EEOICPA eligibility guidelines and limiting DOE’s fiscal liability for potential environmental contamination. However, upon careful review of history, an inconvenient truth emerges. But DEEOIC just isn’t interested.
Area IV is missing from a 1956 map of the facility, then known as the “Propulsion Field Laboratory.” Area III is indicated as the westernmost portion of the facility, with nuclear operations and rocketry facilities existing alongside one another. It appears, when compared to current facility maps, that sometime during or after 1956 Area III was bisected and the portion west of the bisection line was thusly christened, “Area IV.” If this map is accurate, it could mean that EEOICPA claims denied on the premise of an Area III work location prior to (at least) 1956 may be have been denied unfairly.
Was Area IV created in 1956, a full eight years after SSFL began operations? Perhaps, this is explained with the letter (1955) from NAA announcing the creation of Rocketdyne as its own division, alluding to no prior idea of “complete separation.” This, alongside other carefully reviewed historical documents, is yet another call to reexamine the policy excluding NAA’s Rocketdyne personnel of Areas I, II and III from EEOICPA. For instance, letters authored by DOE as late as 1996 reveal nuclear operations support facilities existing throughout Areas I, II and III which needed to be decontaminated by DOE prior to release for unrestricted use. Their locations beyond Area IV would have made them accessible to all NAA personnel currently excluded from EEOICPA eligibility.
Nearly 2,000 pages of historical documents detailing common work areas, AEC/DOE‐NASA projects involving NAA’s nuclear and rocketry divisions, site‐wide AEC/DOE operations including waste transport, storage and disposal, and undocumented worker rotation into and out of nuclear areas have been submitted to DOL, DOE, DEEOIC, NIOSH, and the President’s Advisory Board on Radiation & Worker Health since 2008.
The compilation was part of a two‐hour hearing before the Final Adjudication Branch (FAB) challenging denial of a claim and the policy of exclusion facing thousands of SSFL workers. The data was organized, annotated, cross‐referenced, and summarized to reach a broad audience; anyone lacking even basic knowledge of the facility’s purpose, history, contractor, projects, and personnel would have no trouble understanding it fully. It was delivered in person, on disk, and hard‐copy, along with links to download it from the web. In 2008, the 1956 map was hand‐delivered to John Vance of DEEOICP and a brief discussion of the possibility of wrongly denied claims followed. The premise here is clear: All NAA‐SSFL personnel are deserving of eligibility to EEOICPA.
FAB’s response, “It is not [our] responsibility to review new evidence that challenges existing policy,” motivated me to question why EEOICPA would provide a claimant with the opportunity to present new evidence in the course of objecting to a recommended decision at all. DEEOIC Director, Rachel Leiton, clearly failed to review the material and her lack of even the most basic understanding of SSFL operations was made clear with her statements, “… personnel who worked in Areas I, II and III are not covered because they did not work for the DOE or its contractors or subcontractors,” (Incorrect: North American Aviation is a DOE Contractor), and even more telling, “The DOE never had any interest in space.”
In 2012,Director Leiton described at length the challenges faced by DEEOIC at EEOICPA’s enactment, which included a lack of functional databases with access to complete and relevant information to meet EEOICPA’s needs.
It is no secret that in 2000, information about the Cold War and nuclear complex had just begun to surface. It’s logical that some of EEOICPA policy was written on erroneous and/or incomplete facility information, so we’d naturally assume that errors would need to be corrected as they are discovered for the program to function properly.
However, DEEOIC, knowing it needs more information to adequately navigate claims, has chosen to nurture a culture of bias against claimants, their physicians, and advocates by mocking them in training manuals and publicly insinuating they lack integrity, rather than realizing they are often the best resource for facility history and information. While claimants and advocates regularly submit credible data worthy of critical investigation to correct errors within EEOICPA, all too often the submissions are met with argumentative replies from DEEOIC that parrot the exact policy needing correction while making it blatantly obvious that new evidence is not being reviewed.
It’s not difficult to research NAA’s status as a DOE Contractor at SSFL, nor is it difficult to investigate the long and rewarding relationship between AEC/DOE‐NASA, which continues today. In fact, former AEC Commissioner Glenn Seaborg fought passionately for continued AEC funding of space‐nuclear applications, many of which were developed at SSFL by NAA’s nuclear and rocketry divisions. Additionally, several projects in which AEC had proprietary interest with NASA were undertaken beyond Area IV, in Areas I, II and III. It was no accident of geography that NAA’s Atomics International & Rocketdyne were situated alongside one another at the same facility; the technology they perfected was not only celebrated widely, it contributed significantly to the Cold War effort.
In March of 2013, ANWAG inquired to DEEOIC requesting clarification of DOE proprietary interests and made yet another effort to point out the glaring issues at SSFL calling for inclusion of Area I, II and III personnel to EEOICPA. The 1956 map was submitted again. DEEOIC replied with inflammatory rebuttals and ambiguous definitions of DOE’s proprietary interests, and referred to “numerous documents” indicating that its position on Area IV is based on correct and complete information, while making no mention of material that has been submitted to challenge this. When pressed to extrapolate on the “numerous documents” DEEOIC had referred to, they referenced one: a defunct Historical Site Assessment authored in 2005 that referred to Area IV using today understands of boundaries for the expressed purpose of geographically identifying survey locations. The purpose of the Historical Site Assessment was only to determine where contamination may have occurred within the current understanding of established site parameters. Additionally, possible addition of a bisection of Area III in 1956 would limit the size of the original area, making DOE accountable for a much smaller area of potential contamination.
We would like a detailed explanation of why Area IV was not included on the 1956 map; this should be thoroughly investigated to rule out the potential for wrongly denied claims prior to 1956. We would also like the evidence submitted that details DOE operations site‐wide, which put NAA workers in Areas I, II and III at risk to be addressed, and joint projects between AEC/DOE‐NASA to be acknowledged. Since these issues directly impact workers who may be excluded from EEOICPA legislation unfairly, this shouldn’t be too much to ask of those tasked with upholding EEOICPA and ensuring its ethical implementation. Further, referring to existing documents that are steeped in compounded error or incomplete information will not suffice. We see that a map exists, dated 1956, from which Area IV is missing. It places all NAA rocketry & nuclear personnel in the shared areas. Let’s hear about this – and let’s hear how the addition of a new boundary line impacted operations. If the precedent of worker‐rotation and accessibility had been set for nearly a decade, was this newly bisected area simply a formality? Historical documents detailing shared waste‐ storage and disposal areas accessible to all indicate that this is likely.
EEOICPA was devised to compensate those whose health was compromised in the course of serving our nation under the DOE, its contractors or subcontractors during the Cold War effort, which included keeping our nation in the position of global leadership in the fields of science and technology. Harold B. Finger, who served simultaneously as Director of both the Nuclear Systems & Space Power (NASA) and Space Nuclear Systems Division (AEC) underscores the very reason EEOICPA was created. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that men and women who contributed to these efforts should be eligible for EEOICPA. Here are Mr. Finger’s thoughts on the joint projects between AEC‐NASA and their contribution to the Cold War: “We could not have retained our position of responsible world leadership nor helped to ensure our dynamic growth and vitality at home if we were not adding Mariner, Ranger Gemini, Syncom, Telsat, Early Bird, Tiros, ESSA, Nimbus, Lunar Orbiter, Surveyor, Saturn, and others to the Russian Sputnik, Vostok, Voskhod, Cosmos, Zond, Luna, Proton, Moniya and Elektron spacecraft … I believe it is this total search for perfection and the effects it has had in establishing the NASA system of management, development, and operation that may have the greatest effect on our total technological capacities and our technological power. This factor will change the way our weapons systems have been developed and built.”DEEOIC needs accountability and oversight. Evidence provided by advocates is done so in the spirit of assisting EEOICPA in its ability to serve those who have served this country. It must stop being ignored in favor of obstructing justice and perpetuating the culture of bias. If advocates’ submissions are inadmissible, I suggest DEEOIC and claims examiner positions be occupied by individuals in possession of Cold War knowledge, whose ability and initiative to research with critical thought are unfailing, and whose ethical fortitude is comparable to the men and women who gave their lives to the nuclear complex and Space Race without hesitation. Advocates do not submit evidence to be argumentative; we tirelessly research and provide information in an effort to assist claimants who have served this nation well. It’s time DEEOIC accept the information in the spirit it is provided, and work with this same effort in mind.
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