New rules block compensation to worker's widow
By Laura Frank, Rocky Mountain News
Monday, March 17, 2008
Just before Christmas, Loa Richards opened a letter from the government and thought her problems were solved.
She could fix her roof on her mobile home and stop covering her floor with buckets when rain fell or snow melted. She could replace the water heater the inspector warned could pump out carbon monoxide. She could have a portrait made of herself to give her children as a memento.
And she could pick out her own casket for the day she would join her husband, Warren, who died of cancer 17 years ago at age 52.
The government's letter said Warren's cancer was likely the result of his work at Rocky Flats, the defunct nuclear weapons plant northwest of Denver. Congress decided in 2000 that the nation's nuclear weapons workers and their survivors were due compensation for sacrificing their health building atomic bombs.
The government recommended that Richards, 70, who lives in Clifton, near Grand Junction, receive $300,000.
"She thought it was a blessing from God," said Richards' daughter, Donna DeKruger, who helped her mother file for the compensation more than six years ago.
Then, this month, another letter arrived. Under new guidelines written by the U.S. Labor Department and published in February, Richards apparently won't be receiving the money after all.
"You go through this for years - the ups and downs. I just kind of want to give up," said Richards, who is surviving on Social Security and her husband's Rocky Flats pension of $138 a month. "I don't want to sound like a crybaby. I'm thankful for what I have. It's just so sad."
[Read the full story here.]