Building Trades members with toxic exposures eligible for free medical screenings, compensation

PART 2 IN A SERIES

By TIM ROWDEN
Editor-in-Chief

DENISE BROCK, an ombudsman to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), is spreading the word to tradesmen and women who worked at Department of Energy (DOE) job sites about free medical screenings and compensation they may be due as a result of the materials they were exposed to under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. – NIOSH photo

Some 45,000 building trades members nationwide have received free medical screenings for diseases and health conditions related to exposures working at or on former Department of Energy sites, but many more are out there, says Denise Brock, ombudsman to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

In Missouri, 939 trades members have been screened and in Illinois, 145 have been screened.

Brock says those numbers are low compared to the believed number of workers who were exposed in construction, dismantling and remediation/clean up at sites like the Mallinckrodt Weldon Spring Plant, Mallinckrodt Chemical Company Destrehan Street Facility (downtown St. Louis), the St. Louis Airport Storage Site and others, including sites in other states where local workers may have traveled for jobs.

Brock is spreading the word to tradesmen and women who worked on Department of Energy (DOE) sites about free medical screenings and compensation they may be due as a result of the materials they were exposed to under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act.

The Act, passed by Congress in 2000, established a fund to compensate workers and their families who were made ill or died due to their work in nuclear weapons and fuel facilities or working on former sites, with up to $400,000 in compensation, plus medical benefits provided.

The funding for the program comes from the U.S. Treasury Department and is called by some an “Apology Payment” to those who did this dangerous work.

WHO IS ELILGIBLE?
Tradesmen and women that may be eligible for compensation for having worked on these sites include boilermakers, carpenters, electricians, iron workers, laborers, pipefitters and others.

“For whatever reason, the building trades have a tendency to fall through the cracks,” Brock said.

“Part of the reason is when you file a claim, the Department of Labor needs certain information. They need proof of employment, and of course, your illness and so on,” Brock said. “What happens is if you’ve got somebody that is a direct employee of a company like Mallinckrodt, whether it’s downtown or at Weldon Spring or wherever, when you file a claim, you have paid Social Security, have detailed earnings, and it’s going to come back to that plant. Whereas, if I have somebody that is a pipefitter or electrician, it’s going to come back to the to the contractor or subcontractor and we have to prove that that person was out there. We know that that company was out there at that venue.

WELDON SPRING
“The good thing about Weldon Spring is that we already know who the subs were out there, who the contractors were. So now, the idea for me is to make sure that the workers are aware that they’re eligible for not just the free medical screening. They can take it or leave it. If they already have an illness, they need to file a claim. If they were involved in any sort of construction, dismantling or mediation, I want them to file a claim.”

The message, Brock says, is you should file a claim if you worked on one of these facilities even if you’re not sick. The medical screening is free and the doctors in the program know what to screen for.

FIND OUT IF YOU QUALIFY
The Building Trades National Medical Screening Program (BTMed) is a database that provides a listing of contractors and subcontractors with a known contractual relationship with various Department of Energy (DOE) facilities that are covered under the Compensation Program Act. It includes subcontractors on the Mallinckrodt Weldon Spring Plant, Mallinckrodt Chemical Company Destrehan Street Facility (downtown St. Louis), the St. Louis Airport Storage Site, as well as sites in other states where local workers may have traveled for jobs.

The U.S. Department of Energy and Department of Labor compiled and update a list of contractors who worked on those sites to identify which workers may be at risk and add contractors whose employees may have been at risk, if their company isn’t currently listed.

WHO SHOULD FILE A CLAIM?
“If they are ill they need to file a claim,” Brock said. “If they think they’re not ill, they need to get the free medical screening. Because those are some very unique exposures. They are the most hazardous material known to mankind they have out there, especially what got shipped from downtown St. Louis. Building parts, barrels of radiation, vehicles, then you’ve got stuff that was also at the airport. I heard there was stuff from Illinois, dumped out there and even in Colorado. Then you’ve got the stuff from Weldon Spring. The trades that were out there doing the cleanup at had some horrific exposures. A regular doctor may not know what to screen for.

“A lot of times, when I talk to people, they will usually say ‘Oh, no, I’m fine.’ And then I’ll ask them well, what about skin cancers, what about hearing loss. what about cataracts, blood disorders, cardiac illness? They just don’t think those things could be connected, or the possibility that they could actually get compensated. And we know that these can come about because of exposure to toxins.”

The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act covers any illness that can be caused by, aggravated by or contributed to by toxic exposure. “There’s a lot of caveats to it,” Brock said. “But I tell them, I don’t care what you have, throw it at the wall and see what sticks.”

More information is available at www.btmed.org or by contacting BTMed at 800-866-9663 or Denise Brock at 636-236-0932.


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