The US Labor Department has released new information for ex-nuclear arms employees regarding eligibility for compensation due to harmful exposure to beryllium.

The U.S. Department of Labor has announced an updated procedure for determining eligibility for benefits related to beryllium exposure under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act (EEOICPA). This update, which implements provisions of the Beryllium Testing Fairness Act signed into law by President Biden, may allow previously ineligible nuclear workers to receive medical care for diseases caused by exposure to beryllium.

The EEOICPA program was established in 2000 to provide benefits to individuals who were sickened or died from their work in the nuclear weapons industry, as well as their families. It offers lump sum compensation and coverage of medical expenses for workers who contracted certain diseases due to exposure to beryllium, silica, radiation, or other toxins. Since its inception, the program has provided over $22 billion in total compensation and medical benefits to approximately 135,000 claimants, surpassing initial estimates.

Previously, affected workers were required to present evidence of one abnormal beryllium test to qualify for benefits related to beryllium exposure under EEOICPA. However, under the updated procedure, former nuclear workers may now establish “beryllium sensitivity” by submitting three “borderline” tests taken over a period of three years. Beryllium sensitivity is an allergic reaction to the presence of beryllium in the body, typically caused by inhaling beryllium dust particles or fumes. Since the program’s inception, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs has accepted 1,460 beryllium sensitivity cases and a total of 3,382 chronic beryllium disease cases.

According to Christopher Godfrey, director of the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, these changes will help nuclear workers receive care for diseases related to toxic beryllium exposure. The office will proactively review all denied claims under EEOICPA related to beryllium exposure to determine if any additional workers may now be eligible for medical benefits.

To learn more about the updated criteria for establishing beryllium sensitivity, read OWCP’s Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act Bulletin 24-01. You can also find more information about the Energy Workers Program and OWCP on their respective websites.  

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