ABOUT THE SERIES
Tens of thousands of America's former nuclear bomb builders are sick, dying or already dead because of their exposure to radiation and other poisons. You knew that.
After decades of stonewalling, the government started a compensation program in 2000. You knew that.
After four years of bungling, Congress reformed the program, demanding that it be "compassionate, fair and timely." Perhaps you knew that.
But what you may not know is that today only one in four claimants has been compensated and millions more of your taxpayer dollars have been wasted creating hurdles instead of help.
For many of the nation's cold warriors, the government's game is deadly denial.
Former Los Alamos worker Ben Ortiz was one of the first workers to speak publicly about the ill workers’ plight. But he is still waiting for aid. Government officials told him every time his Senator or Congressman inquires on his behalf about the delay, it only delays his case even more.
The pain drives George Barrie from his bed about 3 a.m. — a nightly occurrence. He leaves his sleeping wife and stumbles to his recliner in the living room. He sits down heavily, shifting his weight, trying to make the pain bearable.
The U.S. Department of Labor says it can find "no known" link between toxic exposure and at least 77 medical conditions. Sick workers have come to call this the "no pay" list. But the Rocky Mountain News found that at least seven of those listed diseases actually have "good" or "strong" evidence linking them to toxic substances.
Gerald Hasenkamp was in excruciating pain. Cancer had invaded his colon, his mouth, his lungs and finally his bones. When his wife, Dee, tried to prop him up in bed, his collarbone snapped. When a nurse tried to take a blood sample, his arm broke.
Charlie Wolf says he has beaten the odds twice. First by surviving six years with brain cancer that was supposed to have killed him in six months. Second, by living to see a check from the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program.
Executives at the U.S. Department of Labor are apparently happy with the operation of the program to compensate sick nuclear weapons workers. More than $3.2 million in bonuses has been paid to those administering the program since it started in 2001.
To prove he is sick enough to deserve the federal compensation promised to former uranium miners such as himself, 86-year-old Ross Williams must take a lung-function test. The problem is, Williams and some others like him are too sick to complete the required test.
For five years, former Rocky Flats worker E. Levi Samora Jr. was denied compensation meant for sick nuclear weapons workers, even though he had a diagnosis of a bomb-related illness from Rocky Flats doctors.
MAPS AND GRAPHICS
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- The U.S. bomb 'factory'
- Aid spigot open to some
- How the program works
- Claims compensation by state
- Linking radiation to cancer
- Cancer and compensation
- Mosier e-mail on surveillance
- Mosier e-mail on undercover
- Senate letter to Chao on modifying the law
- NIOSH response to Rocky investigation
- Document linking Janine Anderson's denial to her advocacy
- Letter telling Dee Hasenkamp to find her own evidence
- DOL bulletin that opinions not be given to claimants
- DOL's "no pay" list
- DOL bulletin rescinding the "no pay" list
- Bonuses for compensation program officials at DOL
- Request for secret reports denied
- Letter to Department of Labor from Reps. Perlmutter, Udall
- The Rocky's special report on Rocky Flats nuclear workers
- U.S. Department of Labor Web site concerning nuclear workers' compensation program
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
- Transcript of RockyTalk Live chat with reporter Laura Frank about the final installment in the series. (07/23/2008)
- Transcript of RockyTalk Live chat with Terrie Barrie, co-founder of the Alliance of Nuclear Worker Advocacy Groups and the wife of a former machinist at Rocky Flats. (07/22/2008)
- Transcript of RockyTalk Live chat with reporter Laura Frank. (07/21/2008)