Tennessee Rally Highlights Sick Cold War Workers Seeking Compensation

June 27, 2008

Former Cold War workers and their supporters rallied in Oak Ridge, Tenn. to demand help for workers made ill from exposure to hazardous and radioactive materials in the government’s nuclear weapons facilities.

The U.S. Department of Labor responded with new data showing 41,322 people have received more than $3.8 billion in compensation and medical benefits since the department took over responsibility for these claims in 2004. That includes $1.4 billion to 12,925 claims involving people who worked in Oak Ridge.

“We are, in fact, doing an excellent job,” program director Shelby Hallmark told The Knoxville News Sentinel in an interview from Washington.

About 75 people attended the rally in this city created by the secret bomb-building Manhattan Project in World War II and that continues to host one of this country’s major nuclear weapons factories.

Activist Janet Michel, who suffers from autoimmune disease after working in Oak Ridge’s former uranium enrichment plant, championed the compensation program a decade ago and reforms six years later.

But she says changes are still needed. “There’s too much death and there’s too much denial,” she said of aging claimants.

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