Health Secretary Rejects Push to Help All Rocky Flats Workers

August 10, 2007

The federal secretary of health and human services has rejected an appeal by Colorado’s congressional delegation to make it easier for Rocky Flats nuclear weapons workers to get compensation for cancer or other job-related diseases.

In a letter released by Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., Secretary Michael Leavitt stood by a federal panel’s recommendation limiting special status to those who worked at Rocky Flats between April 1, 1952 and Dec. 31, 1966.

Salazar and other members of the delegation had asked Leavitt to reconsider the findings of the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health, which held hearings in Colorado this year.

Congress has the final say. Salazar said he planned to introduce a bill to address the needs of the workers, whom he said were “among our country’s heroes of the Cold War.”

Workers with special status can get government benefits simply by showing they have a form of cancer that can be caused by radiation. Other workers can still get compensation but have to prove their diseases were the result of exposure to plutonium or other chemicals at the plant.

In order to so, the radiation dose they were exposed to has be reconstructed. Leavitt told Salazar that that has been done for 1,150 of the 1,248 workers who have filed claims.

Rocky Flats, located 15 miles northwest of Denver, made plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads. Many workers have said they developed cancer and other diseases because of their jobs there. The plant closed in 1991.

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