Feb 14, 2008

Flats worker dies waiting for government check

By Ann Imse, Rocky Mountain News (Contact)

Former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons builder Douglas DelForge died Sunday of disfiguring brain tumors — six years after applying for federal aid, 14 months after being approved — but before being paid for his lost wages.

Under rules for atom bomb makers sickened on the job, the government's delay in paying DelForge, 46, until after his death means the government will never cut that check.

His parents are not eligible for survivor payments. His wife had long since divorced him, unable to handle his illness.

The Department of Labor did pay another significant part of DelForge's compensation, for permanent disability. That check arrived six days before he died.

Born April 10, 1961, DelForge started at Rocky Flats at 20, and stayed 21 years. He worked on radioactive materials through glove boxes, and later on decontamination.

He underwent his first surgery for brain tumors at 31 but continued to work at the plant.

His father, Cliff, who worked at Rocky Flats as a radiation monitor for 35 years, suggested to his son that he work there, too.

"In retrospect, I couldn't be sorrier," the father said.

Doug DelForge loved playing golf. Once, when a distracting comment by his father led to a disastrous score of 17 on one hole, DelForge followed up by hitting 4 pars and a birdie on the remaining five holes.

When Doug came down with aggressive meningioma, the brain tumors displaced parts of his brain. He was denied aid because they were not considered cancer.

His face twisted and one eyelid fell shut. "His face was animated on one side, and not on the other," explained his mother, Sharon. He could smile, but only on one side of his face.

Double vision distorted his golf game, and then balance problems robbed him of his swing, his father said.

DelForge continued to work at Rocky Flats until he finally became too disabled in 2003, after his brain swelled and blood clots appeared in his lungs.

"He was a kind man, and a quiet fighter," remembered colleague Jennifer Thompson, a leader in the fight for federal aid for sick Rocky Flats workers. "He never gave up, and remained positive, warm and caring" despite his struggle, she said.

Cliff DelForge said the government repeatedly refused his son's application for aid for five years, saying his illness was not caused by his job.

"This panel of doctors said there is no evidence radiation has anything to do with meningioma," Cliff DelForge said. The father finally went on the Internet himself. "It took me less than 30 minutes to find a site that said it was caused by radiation."

He and his wife are not happy that government officials could not manage to pay for their son's lost wages.

"They drag their feet and drag their feet until people die, and they don't have to pay them," Cliff DelForge said.

Shelby Hallmark, head of the Department of Labor aid program, said his Denver office did make a deliberate decision in October to defer payment of DelForge's lost wages. But Hallmark could not immediately determine why.

But he said the law states that only a living worker can be paid for lost wages. Delay in payment until after the worker dies means no payment at all, he confirmed.

"That's very clear, and in this case, sad," Hallmark said.

In December Doug's doctor said another tumor had grown to the size of a golf ball. It was impinging on Doug's brain stem — and the doctor didn't know whether to recommend surgery, or not.

On the way out of the doctor's office in the elevator, Doug, who never complained, who never blamed anyone, let out a deep sigh, his father said.

That's the only time his father can remember his son expressing an emotion about his situation.

After the surgery, Doug went downhill. He was sent home to his parents, who tried to feed him through a tube into his stomach. Thick liquids clogged in the tube. Diluting the liquid food doubled its volume, and that was too much.

"We were doing all this stuff we had not a clue about," said his mother.

Fluids backed up Doug's esophagus into his lungs, and he could not breathe.

Back in the hospital, this occurred several times, until Doug's brain died on Sunday.

Doug had always wanted to leave his organs to help someone else. "Somebody got his liver and his eyes," his mother said proudly.

DelForge is survived by his parents, Cliff and Sharon DelForge of Northglenn, and his sister, Terri Shaver of St. George, Utah.

A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at the Northwest Church of Christ, 5255 West 98th Ave, Westminster, followed by a reception at the Blue Parrot Restaurant, 640 Main Street, Louisville. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations in his name be sent to organ donor association, The Donor Alliance Inc., 720 S. Colorado Blvd., Suite 800N, Denver, Co. 80246-9987.


Anonymous said...

The people responsible for this should die a slow and paindful death - -publically. For someone serving in the national interest to be treated so poorly is unfathomable.

What kind of government do we have in place? Obviouslly, not one by the people for the people - we have been taken over by rich arrogant assholes.

Anyone disagree?

Anonymous said...

Hey Hillary - what if this was Chealsea?

You say you cater to the blue collar worker, well now is the time to stand up!

Anonymous said...

Hey guys - I read this several times and came to the conclusion "Who really cares what they think"

LANL is focued on a national mission and not some earthy Santa Fe feel good mission. I thin Santa Fe is an embarassment.


Santa Fe resists LANL pits

By ROGER SNODGRASS, Monitor Editor

SANTA FE – The Associated Press reported that the Santa Fe City Council unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday night objecting to a federal plan to expand production of plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
“The laboratory appreciates the concerns of the Santa Fe community and of the council and will do everything we can to address those concerns and be as good a neighbor as we can be,” the laboratory responded in a prepared statement.
The National Nuclear Security Administration has issued a draft environmental statement on current plans for transforming the nuclear complex. A series of 18 public hearings begins next Thursday in South Carolina.
Four meetings will be held in New Mexico, including one from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. March 13 at the Hilltop House in Los Alamos, and from 6-10 p.m. the same day in Santa Fe at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center 3221 Rodeo Road.
NNSA’s preferred alternative calls for manufacturing up to 80 pits per year, enabled by completion of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR) a project whose budget has grown to $2 billion, despite failure to gain full approval from House appropriators in recent years.
The Santa Fe City Council passed a resolution in April 2005, advocating compliance with the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which entered into force in 1970. Among other recommendations, the resolution called for rejecting all proposals to build new or expanded factories for nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons components.
After the Rocky Flats site was shut down for environmental crimes in 1989, Los Alamos became the focus of production for plutonium pits, achieving its goal last year of producing 10 certified pits, nine of which have received the “diamond stamp” authorizing them to be used in warheads in the nuclear stockpile.
The resolution this time emphasized concerns about hazardous contamination. It was passed unanimously by the councilors who voted.
A performance evaluation plan for the current fiscal year at LANL calls for the manufacture of 10 diamond-stamped pits this year.
According to Jan. 11 site report by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, the plan includes extending the life of the current Chemistry and Metallurgy Research facility, an aging structure that the CMRR was meant to replace.
The plan details prescribed terms that would enable the contract manager, Los Alamos National Security, to earn a one-year extension to its seven-year contract.
The CMRR project plans to hold its fifth public meeting under terms of a formal settlement with environmental and community groups at 6:30 p.m. March 25 at Fuller Lodge to update the project and answer questions

Anonymous said...

Check out "Dot Earth" which comments on a Los Alamos scheme that is getting national attention. It's a New York Times commentary which examines the lab's new plan to convert air into fuel. Wanna bet whether it's LANL business as usual?

Anonymous said...

That is a very sad story.

I did a little Googling to see if the government was clearly at fault or not.

This statement is typical of what I found:

"RISK FACTORS — The cause of meningiomas is not well understood, but may include both genetic (inherited) and environmental factors. Several conditions have been associated with an increased risk for the development of a meningioma [1]:

"* Neurofibromatosis - Neurofibromatosis type 2 is a rare inherited disease that usually appears first during childhood. This disorder affects the skin and the nervous system, and increases the risk of meningiomas as well as other brain tumors. Affected patients may develop multiple meningiomas.

"* Previous radiation therapy treatment - Patients who have had radiation exposure to the head have an increased risk for developing a meningioma, especially 10 to 20 years after treatment. Individuals who underwent irradiation of the brain and spinal cord during treatment for childhood leukemia are at a particularly high risk."

Radiation therapy of the head, a rather intense and clearly damaging radiation, is clearly a risk factor. Genetic factors seem more likely.

It is not at all clear that a radiation worker, working under prescribed limits, would be exposed to levels that are significant enough to be a cause of meningioma. This gets down to the age old question of thresholds, probilities, allowable levels, and whether a linear damage model is appropriate.

The statement that "It took me less than 30 minutes to find a site that said it was caused by radiation." is not a balanced perspective.

It is a difficult question. What is the government supposed to do in cases where the cause is unknown? Are all tumors, even benign ones, found in any radiation worker subject to government treatment?

I can't answer that question. But it seems to me that this is a gray area, not the clear cut portrayal of government abuse that Ann Imse would like it to be.

Anonymous said...

12:12 pm:

I agree with everything you've posted, and thanks for doing the homework for the rest of us. However, the "government abuse" lies not in questions about whether the government was liable for the injuries in the first place, but in the unconscionable, even criminal, delay in providing compensation once it was approved, which the DOL spokesman couldn't explain, except that it was "a deliberate decision." Given the fact that that decision meant that NO payment would be made, his statement opens the door for a big lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't payment due go to next of kin?

Why does the government get out of paying it's debt just because the person owed has passed away? I would think that the money would go to his estate, to be probated and distributed to heirs.

Anonymous said...

I believe the law states compensation can only go to a surviving spouse or child, and is reduced by half in those cases.

Anonymous said...

Click his picture to enlarge it. Look at his face. He wasn't born like that.

Do you want your child or spouse working with plutonium?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your clarification, 1:09. I guess I got lost in the woods. Clearly, promising payment and then withholding it is bad.

Concerning why the payment would not be made to the estate, what you think is fair and what the law provides may be different. Perhaps the law is intended to provide treatment and relieve suffering to the individual, not to enrich the estate. Someone needs to research the law.

Anonymous said...

Part E of the law says that only a surviving spouse or qualified children may collect Part E. Since Mr. Delforge passed away before receiving his wage loss claim, and he is not survived by a spouse or a qualified child, no one gets the compensation. I'm looking forward to see if the reporter finds out why a hold was placed on that claim. Surely, someone's head will roll. But then again maybe not.

Anonymous said...

They Todd Kaupilla'd him, those bastards.

Eric said...

To 9:13,

Perhaps Pinky will make a top level post out of this if appropriate.

If you follow the green fixation of CO2 beyond the initial press releases and into other online material, you find that this creation of synthetic natural gas and other products is only profitable when gasoline reaches $4.60 a gallon and requires nuclear reactors to power the conversion.

Where do the necessary nuclear reactors come from since many are going offline (due to age) in the next ten years and very few are being built?

Anonymous said...

Sad story but not surprising. That's the nature of the nuclear beast and its Republican masters that feed and protect it; St. Plutonium Pete being the perrenial head master of course. Does the phrase "polluted water" mean anything to the nuclear disciples of the Lab now, or its sheeple workforce? Of course not. Never will.

Anonymous said...


If you have polluted water, post the evidence. But not here. The topic here is the government's treatment of a dead Rocky Flats worker. You might consider another thread. There are several recent ones on water quality.

Sheeple, my ass. Your ignorance, clearly displayed by your hateful writing, is an embarrassment to your cause. What you need to make your case are scientifically verifiable facts. Unfortunately for you, that will never happen.

Anonymous said...

Sad story. However, despite people's emotional reactions as shown in the threads, there is not compelling scientific evidence to show these tumors are linked to his 20 yr radiation exposure at RF. I DO agree that the government needed to compensate in a timely fashion.

Anonymous said...

You have access to his medical records?

Anonymous said...

Medical records would not prove anything other than he had tumors. What you need are (a) his dosimetry records, and (b) scientific evidence that there is a causal relationship between the dose he actually received and the tumors in question. I think there is no evidence (b) unless the dose way above operational limits. His actual dose has not been reported. If it were high, I would think that high dose would be a part of the story. It isn't. So, lacking information to the contrary, the natural assumption is that someone has been trying to establish a link between his tumor and the mere fact that he worked at Rocky Flats. That is not a solid link.

Is that what you meant, 8:29 AM?

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you make a distinction between medical records and dosimetry records. Dosimetry records, even if he were able to obtain them, are frequently inaccurate.

You do realize why Rocky Flats was closed?

Anonymous said...

As reported, Mr. Delforge was awarded compensation under Part E of EEOICPA - medical and impairment - after years waiting a decision. The law states that if a claimant can prove that a toxic exposure is at least as likely as not a significant factor in contributing to, aggravating or causing a disease or condition, that disease is covered under EEOICPA. It doesn't need to be radiation.

Anonymous said...

3;46 pm: Exactly. The issue here is NOT whether the government was responsible for his injuries. That point is moot since the governmewnt approved compensation. The point is that the agency (DOL) or some anonymous employee thereof, avoided paying the approved compensation until he died. A criminal act.

Get over the exposure issue - it isn't relevant here.

Anonymous said...

"This panel of doctors said there is no evidence radiation has anything to do with meningioma," Cliff DelForge said.

Would the blog person please publish the names of these doctors.

Anonymous said...

10:43 PM
"Hey Hillary - what if this was Chealsea?

You say you cater to the blue collar worker, well now is the time to stand up!"

Actually Hillary Clinton has been involved in helping workers. She has sponsored legislation that would change EEOICPA. However, the change would be limited to Bethlehem Steel in New York.


Barack Obama has also been working on this issue has tried to help Rocky Flats workers.


And even though Tom Udall has been bashed on this blog he has been very instrumental in assisting sick nuclear workers. He and his staff put in many long hours assisting Harriet Ruiz with her Special Exposure Cohort petition for LANL workers. The Advisory Board approved the petition last May. Many sick workers have been compensated as a result.

Pinky and The Brain said...

Someone wanted to post the lyrics to The End by The Doors. Here's a video instead.

Anonymous said...

2/18/08 7:12 PM,
I don't disagree, just want to add my two cents; not even a form letter from Bingaman. Anyone had any luck with the rest of our fearless leaders?