WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced an updated procedure for determining whether nuclear weapons workers qualify for benefits related to beryllium exposure under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act. The update implements provisions of the Beryllium Testing Fairness Act, signed into law by President Biden as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2024 on Dec. 22, 2023.This update may allow formerly 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. EEOICPA provides lump sum compensation and coverage of medical expenses for workers who contracted certain diseases because of exposure to beryllium, silica, radiation or other toxins, as well as compensation to their survivors. Since its inception, the program has provided over $22 billion dollars in total compensation and medical benefits to approximately 135,000 claimants, far exceeding original estimates.Previously, affected workers were required to present evidence of one abnormal beryllium test to qualify for benefits related to beryllium exposure under EEOICPA. Under this updated procedure, former nuclear workers may now establish “beryllium sensitivity” by submitting three “borderline” tests taken across a period of three years. Beryllium sensitivity is an allergic reaction to the presence of beryllium in the body as the result of inhaling beryllium dust particles or fumes. Since the inception of the program, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs has accepted 1,460 beryllium sensitivity cases and a total of 3,382 chronic beryllium disease cases. “These changes will help nuclear workers get care for diseases related to toxic beryllium exposure,” said Christopher Godfrey, director of the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. “We 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.”Read OWCP’s Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act Bulletin 24-01 on updated criteria for establishing beryllium sensitivity.Learn more about the Energy Workers Program.Learn more about OWCP.
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