Tonawanda News — U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Niagara Falls and Buffalo, announced Friday that he has co-sponsored a bill aimed at helping former Bethlehem Steel employees, and families of former employees, in receiving compensation they are due for health issues resulting from unknown exposure to toxins during their employment.
“Passage of these bills is another step in our continued effort to help former Bethlehem Steel employees receive the compensation that they deserve,” Higgins said in a release from his office. “For these workers and their families, whose lives were devastated by having been unknowingly exposed to toxins for so many years in the course of their everyday work, it is the least we can do to give their claims fair consideration and make sure that receive the compensation that they deserve.”
The bill, H.R. 2904, the Nuclear Workers Compensation Act, would require the U.S> Department of Labor to honor all claims, even if the claimant has passed away, and would allow surviving family members to receive the full compensation benefits.
It would also require President Obama to establish an independent advisory board made up of experts in workers’ health issues to ensure that Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOIPCA) claims are reviewed in a timely manner and to advise on issues related to exposure-related illnesses.
Higgins has been an advocate for families of former Bethlehem Steel workers, fighting to secure compensation for employees and expanding the eligibility window to include those who worked at the factory after they had been told a clean-up had occurred, only to later find out that they continued to be exposed to uranium dust.
Higgins met with a local chapter of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) during their monthly meeting in Lackawanna to provide local residents with an update. As of January 26, 2014 the United States Department of Labor has paid 3,086 claims providing retired Bethlehem Steelworkers and their families with more than $220 million in compensation and medical reimbursements.