One of the most common duties of a congressman is to act as a conduit between the federal government and the residents of the areas he represents, but a Democrat congressman in Missouri doesn’t seem to realize that. When asked if he could help sick federal workers in his district “fight the system,” Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (MO-5) said that was not his job.
At the formal dedication of a new nuclear security campus in South Kansas City, last August, Tom Klammer, the host of Kansas City’s KKFI’s Tell Somebody radio program, asked Cleaver if he had any comments for sick workers “fighting the system.” ( 38:48 until 39:39.)
“You used to work there – and some of the workers feel that you’re not paying enough attention to them on those kind of issues,” Klammer pressed.
Hundreds of sick federal workers who were exposed to hazardous materials at a nuclear weapons plant in Kansas City should be disappointed, but not surprised. They have been trying for years to get access to a federal fund that was set up 14 years ago to compensate workers like them, to no avail.
The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (or EEOICPA) is a government program that was passed in 2000 to provide “compensation and medical benefits to eligible workers (or certain survivors if the worker is deceased) for illnesses related to exposure to radiation or other toxic substances while employed at Department of Energy (DOE), its contractor, or subcontractor facilities.”
If a link is found between working conditions and illnesses, nuclear workers or their survivors are supposed to be paid $150,000, but many workers in Kansas City are dying before they are able to access the benefits they’re due.
A KSHB NBC Action News investigation in 2010 identified approximately 370 workers from the Bannister Federal Complex, many of them now deceased, with cancer, breathing conditions and other illnesses experts say could have been caused by the toxins they worked around.
A government report identifies 785 known toxins at the facility and the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control are conducting additional investigations.
“Now we’re being turned over to panels of experts who are basically just telling us how to fill claims that will undoubtedly be denied,” said former Defense Finance and Accounting Service worker Barbara Rice.
NBC Action News reported:
The audit found the GSA operated a weak environmental program that was incapable of determining whether conditions prior to 2010 were safe.
“The problematic actions by the region indicate a lax environmental management program,” the audit found. “As a result, GSA cannot provide assurance that the Complex has historically been a safe and healthy workplace.”
“(GSA) often provided erroneous and/or incomplete information to both the public and our office concerning environmental issues at the Complex,” the audit stated.”
Officials initially denied knowledge of a list of sick and dead workers and accused NBC Action News of taking information out of context.
The GSA Regional Administrator Jason Klumb apologized at a press conference, saying the GSA would be getting things right.”
But according to sources close to the situation, things have not gotten better – workers are still being frustrated by the federal bureaucracy, and those who have reached out to Rep. Cleaver for help with their claims, have been ignored.
“I am appalled Congressman Cleaver has turned his back on these sick workers,” Turk said via email. “One of the reasons I am running for U.S. Congress is to help folks in this district deal with the Federal bureaucracy. These very ill, former Bendix workers are literally dying waiting for the compensation Congress has already set aside for them. Once elected on November 4th, I will get these claims processed. No more delays.”
Congressman Cleaver’s office followed up with the following statement: