New legislation aims to help Hanford Nuclear Site employees seeking workers’ comp benefits

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Workers who were exposed to toxic substances at the Hanford Nuclear Site in central Washington state may finally have a clearer path to workers’ compensation benefits, if newly proposed federal legislation becomes law.

In response to a Seattle Times investigation about workers at the Hanford site who could not prove an immediate link between debilitating medical conditions and the exposure to toxic chemicals on the job, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Toxic Exposure Safety Act of 2020. Co-sponsored by U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D, WA-09), the legislation aims “to ensure nuclear cleanup workers are able to more easily claim benefits when they suffer medical conditions as a result of exposure to toxic substances,” according to a news release on the bill.

At present, Hanford workers who have health issues can file for workers’ compensation claims through both the Washington state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) third-party insurer, Penser.

Washington state passed a presumption law in 2018 that made it easier for Hanford workers to file for state compensation claims for covered conditions. However, due to a lack of scientific studies on toxic exposures at DOE sites, those exposed to toxic chemicals – as opposed to radiological exposure – have found it difficult to get the L&I benefits they deserve.

The Toxic Exposure Safety Act of 2020 outlines a plan to support medical and scientific studies that will clarify the links between various illnesses and toxic exposure at nuclear cleanup sites.

“This information will dramatically simplify the ability of workers affected by exposures to chemicals to get the financial support they deserve,” according to a fact sheet on the proposed legislation.

If you have a workers’ comp, L&I, or other employment law claim, contact Emery Reddy. You won’t get better advice.

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