Cantwell, Murray Announce New Online Database for Former Hanford Workers

Resource will help workers more accurately determine chemical exposure level, get compensation faster

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) announced that a new online database is available for former Hanford workers whose health has been adversely affected on the jobsite to help them determine the extent of their exposure to toxic chemicals and get more information about related illnesses. Compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy, the online database, called the Site Exposure Matrix (SEM), is available to former nuclear weapons facilities employees covered by Part E of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP). After its May 10 announcement of the database’s planned launch, DOE released the SEMs for 48 nuclear sites quickly but did not immediately release others, including one for the Hanford site. On June 25, 2010, Senators Cantwell and Murray sent a letter to DOE and the Department of Labor requesting the speedy release of a Site Exposure Matrix for Hanford. Within days, DOE responded that it has approved the release of the Hanford SEM along with matrices for 20 other sites.
“I applaud the departments of Labor and Energy for responding so quickly to our request and making the chemical exposure database on the Hanford site available,” Senator Cantwell said. “Making this information available publically to former Hanford workers will add transparency to the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program and help Hanford workers make more accurate determinations regarding their health needs. Hanford workers deserve to have access to the full facts to help them sort through the complicated paperwork faster and get the help they need and deserve without unnecessary delay.”
“I am so glad that Hanford workers are finally going to be able to access the tools they deserve to help them stay healthy,” said Senator Patty Murray. “I applaud the Departments of Energy and Labor for making this new resource available, and I am going to continue working with the Hanford community to make sure that workers remain safe and protected.”  
Additionally, the June 25 letter from Cantwell and Murray urged DOL and DOE to fix inefficiencies slowing down claims processing for former and current Energy workers and contractors. The senators cited recommendations from a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on improving EEOICP.  The problems identified in the GAO report include: restrictions on DOE site information; incomplete or nonexistent records relating to employment and health; problems with the process to determine the level of one’s exposure, known as dose reconstruction; and new scientific information linking the exposure to cancer, which causes the reconstruction process to take longer.The GAO report confirmed that enhanced oversight and transparency of EEOICP could improve the program’s credibility.
Senator Cantwell has been involved in reforming the compensation program since the fall of 2003 to speed up worker claims and improve program efficiency. With thousands of people in Washington state affected, Senator Cantwell co-sponsored an amendment to move the DOE management responsibilities over to the DOL, which had a higher success rate in processing its claims. The amendment was included in the FY 2005 Defense Authorization Bill which passed in June of 2004.