Woman is denied energy-employee compensation

At least two people who worked at the Grand Junction office of the nation’s nuclear-power agencies aren’t included in the special-exposure cohort established for federal employees there.

One of them, Patricia Claypool, a clerk for the Atomic Energy Commission, has pulmonary fibrosis. Had she contracted one of 22 specified cancers, Claypool would be eligible for compassionate compensation under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Claypool attended a traveling resource center sponsored by the Labor Department last week in Grand Junction to find out about the special-exposure cohort. She learned her condition doesn’t qualify her for compensation.

Claypool’s condition would qualify her for medical benefits and $150,000 compassionate compensation if she had worked in a mill or mine. Or, had she worked for one of a string of contractors to the various federal agencies charged with handling the nation’s nuclear storehouse, she could have been compensated.

As a federal employee, though, she is ineligible for compensation under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.

“I don’t have any cancer whatsoever,” she said Friday. “I’d like to do something, but I don’t know what to do.”

Claypool isn’t alone, Durango investigator Becky Rockwell said, noting she has two other clients who might have qualified for benefits under the special-exposure cohort, except they suffer from diseases that aren’t covered.

The special-exposure cohort was established after the Labor Department consulted with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

Under the energy-employees act, “our role is to conduct dose reconstructions for cancer claims,” Chris Ellison, communications-development team lead for NIOSH, said.

In a dose reconstruction, officials study employment and radiation-exposure records to determine the cumulative level of radiation to which an employee was exposed.

Some employees at the Grand Junction office were compensated after the institute conducted individual dose reconstructions for them, but those reconstructions were aimed only at learning whether the employees had been exposed to radiation that resulted in cancer, Ellison said.

So far, the Labor Department has paid out more than $8.3 million in compensation and medical benefits to 66 eligible Grand Junction Operations Office claimants under the energy-employees act.


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