"I'm a single mother," Tina Graham said. "I had three kids. I was told that I had a year to live."
Graham is one of more than 15,000 people who worked in buildings on the Brookhaven property that the federal government now admits may have made them sick.
"They told us it was safe," Graham said. "They said here, wear this, it's all safe. But over the years, I've seen a lot of young people die of cancer."
A hulking nuclear reactor now sits dormant, with its cleanup under way. But during the Cold War, engineers did research to support the American atomic weapons program.
"Everybody was drinking well water," Brookhaven worker Jerry Henry said. "People getting sick every day, and they're never going to know what they're dying from."
So many have gotten sick that the Obama administration has decreed that the victims deserve to be compensated. But because of spotty record keeping before 1980, authorities have no way to know for sure who was exposed.
So the new order will compensate anyone who worked at Brookhaven from 1947 to 1979 for at least 250 days and was diagnosed with one of 22 specific types of cancer.
The Department of Labor held a meeting Wednesday to explain the rule and how to apply for a check totaling $150,000, plus medical bills.
But Tina Graham, who has lived four more years than her doctor predicted, says she isn't sure anything would suffice after what she's endured.
"It's better than nothing, but you can't replace my breast," she said. "You can't replace having cancer. You can't replace the fear in my children's eyes when I told them I had a year to live."
Here are the details on the benefits:
1-Brookhaven National Laboratory SEC class definition (effective date: January 9, 2010):
All employees of the Department of Energy, its predecessor agencies, and its contractors and subcontractors who worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, from January 1, 1947 to December 31, 1979, for a number of work days aggregating at least 250 work days, occurring either solely under this employment, or in combination with work days within the parameters established for one or more other classes of employees in the Special Exposure Cohort.
2-Brookhaven SEC petition
The petition is available by CLICKING HERE.
The Evaluation Report of this petition is available by CLICKING HERE
The HHS designation of additional members to the SEC document (which gives a summary of why the BNL class was added to the Special Exposure Cohort) can be found by CLICKING HERE
3-Do the class members have any special rights or obligations because of the special designation?
The SEC class designation allows eligible claims to be compensated without the completion of a radiation dose reconstruction or determination of the probability of causation. To qualify for compensation under the SEC, a covered employee must have at least one of 22 "specified cancers" and worked for a specified period of time at one of the SEC work sites.
The specified cancers are:
SEC Qualifying Cancers
In addition to having worked for a specified period of time at one of the SEC work sites, to qualify for compensation, a covered employee must also have at least one of the following types of cancer:
The following diseases provided onset was at least five years after first exposure:
The List of Qualifying Cancers for the SEC can be found by CLICKING HERE
Potential class members must file a claim and provide the required information to DOL for doing so. Potential class members do not have any additional obligations. Individuals who have already filed a claim do not have to file any additional paperwork to be considered for the SEC class, but we do urge claimants to ensure that their claim files are up to date and to contact the Department of Labor's New York Resource center at NewYork.Center@rrohio.com or 1-800-941-3943 (toll-free call) if they have new information or questions about their eligibility for the class.
4-How are the class members being notified?
The Department of Labor (DOL), which is primarily responsible for administering EEOICPA, notifies the claimants. You will need to contact DOL regarding their procedures.
Here is a link to DOL's Web site: DOL.gov/owcp/energy/
5-What is the next step for those involved?
If a current or former employee of BNL has filed a claim, DOL will review the claim to determine if it is eligible for compensation under the SEC class. That includes claims that were previously denied.
Claims that were at NIOSH for a dose reconstruction were reviewed for potential eligibility and NIOSH returned 32 claims to DOL for SEC determination. DOL can tell you how many actually qualify for the SEC and benefits paid.
6-If the employee is sick are his/her health costs covered?
There are medical benefits provided for under EEOICPA. Here is the link on DOL's site that outlines the benefits. You would need to ask DOL if you have questions about those benefits. CLICK HERE for more information.
7- If deceased, can a spouse or child claim damages for their loss?
There are survivor benefits provided in EEOICPA. Here is the link on DOL's site that outlines the benefits. You would need to ask DOL if you have questions about those benefits. CLICK HERE for more information.
8-If your viewers have questions about eligibility for the SEC class, or about filing a claim, they can contact the DOL New York Resource Center. DOL Resource Centers were set up to assist EEOICPA claimants in filing claims. CLICK HERE for more information.
9-If you have questions about a claim undergoing dose reconstruction at NIOSH, you can e-mail NIOSH at OCAS@CDC.gov or call the NIOSH toll-free number at 1-877-222-7570.