Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA)
The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) was enacted upon a Congressional finding that the United States should recognize and assume responsibility for the harm done to individuals who developed certain cancers and other diseases following employment in the uranium industry or following exposure to radiation released during atmospheric nuclear tests. Congress included in RECA an apology on behalf of the Nation to these individuals and their families. The Radiation Exposure Compensation Program (RECP) established under RECA provides lump-sum compensation to three defined classes of individuals: Uranium Industry Workers ($100,000), Onsite Participants ($75,000), and Downwinders ($50,000).
Claims under RECA Section 4 (i.e., Onsite Participant and Downwinder claims) are paid from the Radiation Exposure Compensation Trust Fund, which is set to expire on July 10, 2022. Amounts in the Fund not spent at that time will be liquidated and deposited with the United States Treasury. Claims under RECA Section 5 (i.e., Uranium Industry Worker claims) are paid from the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Fund pursuant to the EEOICPA (42 U.S.C. § 7384u(d)), which has no set termination date and will be replenished as necessary (42 U.S.C. § 7484e(c)).
Can we help you?
At Stephens & Stephens, we understand the RECP. The attorneys at Stephens & Stephens help individuals, or their eligible survivors, to collect compensation from the government under RECA. Amendments to RECA have resulted in expanded coverage, meaning that you may now be eligible, even if you were denied in the past. Previously denied claimants may re-file up to three times. (Resubmissions made prior to July 2000 do not count toward the three-time limit.) RECP statistics show that between April 1992 and June 2007, only 40% of denied claimants continued to pursue compensation awards. We help you with the preparation and submission of claims under RECA. We assist you in obtaining the proof necessary for your claim under the DOJ regulations. We work directly with government agencies in the processing of your claim.
Our fees for assisting with claims under RECA are set by statute (42 U.S.C. § 2210 note, § 9; 42 C.F.R. § 79.74), and we do not collect any fees unless and until your claim is paid. No attorneys’ fees are charged for unsuccessful claims. If we are filing an initial RECA claim, our fees are two percent (2%) of the total payment made. For example, upon payment of a $50,000 initial RECA claim, Stephens & Stephens collects $1,000, and the remainder is paid to the client. If we are resubmitting a previously-denied RECA claim, our fee is ten percent (10%) of the total payment made. Expenses payable in addition to the statutory attorney fee will be discussed in advance. See 73 Fed. Reg. 63196 (Oct. 23, 2008). For example, if it is necessary to order documents to support your claim, we may request that you provide payment for the actual cost of the document before we order it, or we may request that you provide such payment when your claim is paid.
Overview of RECA
The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) (42 U.S.C. § 2210 note) was passed on Oct. 5, 1990 (P.L. 101-426) and significantly expanded by the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2000 (July 10, 2000) (P.L. 106-245). The Radiation Exposure Compensation Program (RECP) was established by the Attorney General and began processing claims in April 1992. The RECP is administered by the Department of Justice (DOJ), Civil Division, Torts Branch, Constitutional and Specialized Tort Litigation Section. See regulations at 42 C.F.R. Part 79.
RECA covers all states where uranium was mined and processed, as well as certain “downwind” counties in Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. Although the vast majority of claims are filed by people residing in the Southwestern United States, the RECP has provided compensation to individuals residing in every state as well as in several foreign countries.
RECA was designed as an alternative to litigation, to minimize costs to the claimant and to the United States and resolve claims in a non-adversarial manner. Accordingly, unlike the EEOICPA, RECA does not require claimants to establish causation. Individuals may qualify for RECA compensation by establishing the diagnosis of a listed compensable disease after working or residing in a covered location for a certain period of time.
RECA provides compensation to three defined classes of individuals: Uranium Industry Workers ($100,000), Onsite Participants ($75,000), and Downwinders ($50,000). In cases of eligible individuals who are deceased at the time of payment of compensation, payments are made first to the spouse (married for at least one year immediately prior to death), then (if no spouse) in equal shares to living children, then (if no spouse and no children) in equal shares to living parents, then (if no spouse, children, or parents) in equal shares to living grandchildren, then (if no spouse, children, parents, or grandchildren) in equal shares to living grandparents. 42 U.S.C. § 2210 note, § 6(c)(4). Such survivors may also file claims on behalf of eligible individuals who have died before filing a RECA claim.
RECA Claim Process: What to Expect
If DOJ determines that any requirements for compensation are not met, DOJ advises the claimant in writing, and the claimant (or eligible survivor) is allowed 60 days from the date of notice to correct any deficiency. If the claimant fails to correct the deficiency(-ies), the DOJ will deny the claim without further review.
If the claim is denied, the claimant has 60 days to appeal, and the Appeals Officer is required to decide the appeal (affirm, reverse, or remand for further action) within 90 days of receipt of the appeal. Administrative review by the Appeals Officer is required before a claimant may seek judicial review in federal court.
DOJ is required to make a decision on each properly filed RECA claim within one (1) year of the filing of the claim, except that if DOJ requests additional information from the claimant, the clock is stopped until the claimant provides that information or notifies DOJ that it will not do so. If the DOJ does not make a decision within one year, the claim shall be deemed awarded as a matter of law and paid. In fiscal year 2006, RECP’s overall average claim-processing time across all claimant categories was 339 days, and average claim-processing times are to continue to decrease consistent with the Civil Division’s performance goals (219 days in 2010; 200 days in 2011). From April 1992 through June 2007, RECP authorized payments totaling $1.2 billion for 18,110 claims — about 68% of the 26,550 claims filed during that time period. About 46% of that $1.2 billion was paid to Downwinders, 37% to Uranium Miners, 8% to Uranium Millers, 7% to Onsite Participants, and 2% to Uranium Ore Transporters.
All compensation awards are made in the form of one-time lump-sum payments. When a claim is approved, DOJ will require the claimant to provide an affidavit in connection with other payments which could offset the amount of the RECA award. DOJ may request that the claimant (or eligible survivor) provide further records or documents, or execute affidavits or releases of information. If the claimant fails or refuses, this may be deemed to be a rejection of the payment. Once the claimant (or eligible survivor) elects to accept the payment, the claim is to be paid within six weeks.
Claimants are limited to one payment under RECA. RECA provides that RECA payments satisfy all further claims against the United States, including claims for VA compensation, arising out of exposure to radiation covered by RECA. Under the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2004, a radiation-exposed veteran’s receipt of a payment under RECA does not deprive such a veteran of receipt of VA compensation for months beginning after Mar. 26, 2002 (38 C.F.R. § 3.715(a)(1)), nor does it deprive such a person of receipt of dependency and indemnity compensation for months beginning after Mar. 26, 2002 (38 C.F.R. § 3.715(b)). However, there is an offset of RECA payments against VA compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation payments for months beginning after Mar. 26, 2002 (38 C.F.R. § 3.715(c)).