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The proposed RECA amendments 2023 extend the coverage of the Act for 19 years. It also includes previously uncovered “downwinders” believed to have been unfairly left out of the program. Only claimants who lived in Utah, Nevada, and Arizona during the exposure period are currently eligible for compensation. The US government conducted close to 200 above-ground nuclear tests for weapon production and testing between 1945 and 1962 at various sites within the country without warning surrounding communities. Some regions exposed to radiation have been left uncovered under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) since it took effect in 1990.
If signed into law, residents of Idaho, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, and Guam affected by the radiation would be eligible for compensation. This includes victims who lived within these regions during the above-ground atomic weapon testing. Those eligible for compensation in the proposed amendment also include those working in uranium mining post-1971, i.e. up to 12/31/1990, who include uranium miners, millers, core drillers, and transporters.
The passing of the proposed RECA amendments 2023
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2024, which contains the RECA amendment bill, received a substantial (61-37) bipartisan vote in the Senate. The Act is passed annually outlining the funding procedures Department of Defense.
A bill goes through various legal stages, as follows:
- First, the bill must be sponsored and, in some cases, co-sponsored by representatives
- The bill is then assigned to a committee for study
- If the committee releases the bill, it is put on a calendar for voting, debating, and amendment
- A bill moves to the Senate if it passes by a simple majority of 218 out of 435
- In the Senate, the bill is assigned to another committee. If the second committee releases the bill, it is debated and voted on. At this stage, the bill requires a simple majority (51 of 100) to pass.
- The next stage involves a conference committee of House and Senate members, who address differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.
- The revised bill then returns to the House and Senate for approval.
- The Government Printing Office prints or enrolls the approved bill.
- The enrolled bill is presented to the US President, who has ten days to sign or veto
The proposed RECA amendments 2023 bill is part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The House and Senate have different versions of the Act, which will be tabled before a bicameral conference committee to work on the differences. The House and Senate will then vote on the final bill; if passed, the President must sign for it to be enacted.
The proposed RECA amendments 2023 bill
The bill proposes various amendments to different clauses in the RECA. Guidelines and procedures to carry out the proposed RECA Act 2023 shall be issued not later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act. Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2023, the Attorney General shall issue revised regulations to carry out this Act. The RECA amendments are outlined below:
In the RECA 2024 amendment, those filing leukemia claims relating to trinity test in New Mexico and tests at the Nevada site and in the Pacific must have been physically present in an affected area for at least one year during the period beginning on September 24, 1944, and ending on November 6, 1962. Or physically present in an affected area for at least one year, from July 1, 1946, to November 6, 1962, or from April 25, 1962, and ending November 6, 1962.
On-site participants and downwinder benefits
In the proposed RECA amendment, qualified on-site participants and downwinder victims should receive benefits of $150,000. They are also entitled to receive medical benefits in the same manner and to the same extent as an individual eligible to receive them under section 3629 of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000 (42 USC 7384t). I.e. a covered employee, or the survivor of that covered employee if the employee is deceased, shall receive compensation for the disability or death of that employee from that employee’s occupational illness for $150,000.
Claimants must prove that they were physically present in an affected area for at least two years after January 1, 1949, and contracted a specified disease after such a period of physical presence.
The proposed expansion of the RECA program would be quite significant as claimants who already received their benefits will be eligible for additional benefits as follows:
- Downwinders who received $50,000 in downwinder benefits will receive an additional $100,000.
- On-site participants, who received $75,000 in benefits, will receive an additional $75,000.
- The downwinders and on-site participants will be eligible for an additional $250,000 under Part E, and they will also be eligible for healthcare benefits, including home care benefits.
RECA Eligibility for On-site Participants and Downwinders
Specific diseases eligible for compensation include:
- Any leukemia, other than chronic lymphocytic leukemia, provided that the initial exposure occurred after the age of 20 and the onset of the disease was at least two years after first exposure.
- Any of the following diseases provided that the onset was at least two years after the initial exposure: multiple myeloma, lymphoma, other than Hodgkin’s disease.
- Type 1 or type 2 diabetes
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Multiple sclerosis
- Hashimoto’s disease
Studies have shown that people exposed to nuclear material during childhood are at an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer. RECA presumes the following types of primary cancers occurring from radiation:
- Multiple Myeloma Lymphomas (other than Hodgkin’s disease)
- Bile Duct Cancer
- Brain Cancer
- Breast Cancer (male or female)
- Colon Cancer
- Esophageal Cancer
- Gall Bladder Cancer
- Liver Cancer (except if cirrhosis or hepatitis B is indicated)
- Ovarian Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Pharynx Cancer
- Salivary Gland Cancer
- Small Intestine Cancer
- Stomach Cancer
- Thyroid Cancer
- Urinary Bladder Cancer
- Lung Cancer
Claimants suffering from these illnesses must prove physical presence (that they were physically present) in the affected areas for at least two years after January 1, 1949, through contemporaneous written residential documentation and at least one additional employer-issued or government-issued document.
Claimants should also demonstrate that they contracted a specific disease after the period of physical presence by submission of contemporaneous written medical records or reports created by or at the direction of a licensed medical professional who provided contemporaneous medical care to the claimant.
Other diseases include type 1 or type 2 diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, and Hashimoto’s disease. For one to be eligible for RECA benefits, the onset of the disease must have been at least two years after the first exposure to fallout.
Claims related to leukemia
In the case of leukemia, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia, the exposure to fallout must have been before age 21. To establish eligibility for compensation, a claimant or eligible surviving beneficiary must establish that they were physically present at any place within the affected area for the entire, continuous period beginning on June 30, 1962, and ending on July 31, 1962.
Or, they were present on-site at any time during atmospheric nuclear testing and were a participant during that period in the atmospheric detonation of a nuclear device. After this period of physical presence, the claimant contracted leukemia.
The onset of the disease must have been at least two years after the first exposure to fallout.
Note: Section 4(a)(1)(C) clause (i) was removed (i.e. the claimant’s physical presence at any place within the affected area for at least one year during the period beginning on January 21, 1951, and ending on October 31, 1958)
An experienced RECA attorney can help speed up the process and meet the requirements for eligibility increasing your chances of getting compensation. Contact Hugh Stephens at Stephens and Stephens LLP if you or your loved one suffers from these cancers and meet the above criteria.
Extension of covered areas
The nuclear testing took place in various regions in the country, including South Atlantic Ocean Area, Pacific Ocean Area, Nevada Test Site (NTS), Alamogordo NM (Trinity Test Site), Amchitka AK, Carlsbad NM, Central NV, Fallon NV, Farmington NM, Grand Valley CO, Hattiesburg MS, Nellis Air Force Range NV and Rifle CO. Those living in these regions during the nuclear testing period were exposed to radioactive materials in fallout.
Congress passed Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) on October 5, 1990, and expanded its coverage scope in 2000 to ease the burden of care for the victims and their families. However, some victims living in highly radiated areas, such as Idaho, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, and Guam, were not eligible for these critical benefits.
Those eligible for compensation as miners in the proposed RECA amendments 2023 include those employed in a uranium mine or uranium mill (including any individual who was employed in the transport of uranium ore or vanadium-uranium ore from such mine or mill) located in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, South Dakota, Washington, Utah, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon, and Texas at any time during the period beginning on January 1, 1942, and ending on December 31, 1990. During this period, the miner must have been exposed to work-related radiation for a year or at least forty months.
Other eligible claimants include millers, core drillers, and ore transporters who were involved in remediation efforts at such a uranium mine or mill, working for at least one year during the same period.
The term “core driller” means any individual employed to obtain cylindrical rock samples of uranium or vanadium through a borehole drilling machine for mining uranium or vanadium.
Qualified claimants must submit written medical documentation indicating that the individual developed lung cancer, nonmalignant respiratory disease, renal cancer, or any other chronic renal disease, including nephritis and kidney tubal tissue injury after exposure.
The use of affidavits
The Proposed RECA Amendments 2023 also proposes using affidavits in claims to determine eligibility. It states that the Attorney General shall accept a written affidavit or declaration as evidence to substantiate an individual’s employment history as a miner, miller, core driller, or ore transporter. These affidavits must be provided in addition to other material that may be used to substantiate the individual’s employment history. The affidavit must attest to the employment history of the individual and be subject to penalty for perjury by a person other than the individual filing the claim.
Affidavits shall similarly be used to substantiate an individual’s participation on-site in a test involving the atmospheric detonation of a nuclear device. The affidavit must be provided alongside evidence substantiating the individual’s participation on-site in a test involving the atmospheric detonation of a nuclear device. It must attest to the individual’s on-site participation in a test involving the atmospheric detonation of a nuclear device and be subject to penalty for perjury by a person other than the individual filing the claim.
Limitations on claims
in the proposed RECA amendments 2023, claims should not be filed 19 years after the date of enactment of the RECA Extension Act of 2023.
After enacting the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2023, any claimant who has been denied compensation under this Act may resubmit a claim for consideration by the Attorney General up to three times. These limitations do not apply to resubmittal made before the date of enacting the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2023.
Previously successful claims
After enacting the RECA Amendments of 2023, any claimant who received compensation under this Act may request additional compensation and benefits from the Attorney General.
The request must contain:
- The claimant’s name, social security number, and date of birth
- The amount of award received under this Act before the date of enactment of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2023
- Any additional benefits and compensation sought through such a request
- Any additional information required by the Attorney General
in the proposed RECA Amendments 2023, claimants who already received their benefits under the RECA Act before the date of enactment of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2023 may submit a request to the Attorney General for any excess of the amount the claimant is eligible to receive under this Act minus the aggregate amount previously paid to the claimant. And if the claimant was compensated under section 4, they are eligible for medical benefits under section 4(a)(5).
Claims Relating to Manhattan Project Waste
In 1947, over 21.7 acres of land near Lambert St. Louis Airport were used as a storage area for waste from the Mallinckrodt site.
The proposed amendment to the RECA includes a new compensation program for victims of this nuclear waste in Missouri. These include area ZIP Codes 63031, 63033, 63034, 63042, 63045, 63074, 63114, 63135, 63138, 63044, 63140, 63145, 63147, 63102, 63304, 63134, 63043, 63341, 63368, and 63367.
A claimant must demonstrate that they were physically present in an affected area for at least two years after January 1, 1949; and contracted a specified disease after such period of physical presence; which the attorney general must certify.
Living victims under the program should receive a compensation amount greater than $50,000 or the total compensation for losses related to medical expenses. Medical expenses shall be compensated upon submission of contemporaneous written medical records, reports, or billing statements created by or at the direction of a licensed medical professional who provided contemporaneous medical care to the claimant, additional compensation in the amount of all documented out-of-pocket medical expenses incurred as a result of the specified disease suffered by that claimant, such as any medical expenses not covered under any program or insurance.
If an individual who qualifies for compensation is deceased at the time of submission of the claim, a surviving spouse may receive compensation of $25,000. If there is no surviving spouse, the surviving children, minor or otherwise, receive compensation in the total amount of $25,000, paid in equal shares to each surviving child.
Covered illnesses include:
Any leukemia, other than chronic lymphocytic leukemia, provided that the initial exposure occurred after the age of 20 and the onset of the disease was at least two years after first exposure.
Any of the following diseases provided that the onset was at least two years after the initial exposure:
- Multiple myeloma
- Lymphoma, other than Hodgkin’s disease
- Type 1 or type 2 diabetes
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Multiple sclerosis
- Hashimoto’s disease
- Primary cancer of the thyroid; male or female breast; esophagus; stomach; pharynx; small intestine; pancreas; bile ducts; gall bladder; salivary gland; urinary bladder; brain; colon; ovary; liver, except if cirrhosis or hepatitis B is indicated; lung; bone; or kidney.
Claimants must demonstrate their physical presence by submitting contemporaneous written residential documentation and at least one additional employer-issued or government-issued document or record that the claimant was physically present in an affected area for at least two years after January 1, 1949.
The illness must be demonstrated by submitting contemporaneous written medical records or reports created by or at the direction of a licensed medical professional who provided contemporaneous medical care to the claimant, that the claimant contracted a specified disease after such period of physical presence.