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Labor Dept. Manual Makes Light of Nuclear Industry Illnesses

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Workers’ Compensation on Tuesday, September 27, 2011

U.S. Labor Department officials tasked with deciding whether to approve compensation for workers sickened by exposure to radioactive materials often deal with people suffering serious illnesses, or the families of those who died due to such health problems. So workers, families and advocates say they are shocked to learn that the Labor Department used a manual that uses light-hearted pop culture references when describing possible case scenarios.

For example, the undated manual, which was recently uncovered thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, named one fictional claimant “Freddie Krueger,” an apparent reference to Freddy Krueger, the badly scarred villain of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films. In the scenario, Krueger dies on Halloween of “depression, dementia and skin cancer.” Another claimant is named Jack Bauer, apparently after the hero of the TV series “24.” Other hypotheticals refer to fictional doctors Hannibal Lector and Marcus Welby.

In all of the manual’s hypothetical cases, the Labor Department officials examining the cases were given generic names such as Jane Doe.

The federal government has long had a contentious relationship with sickened atomic workers. For years, the Energy Department denied that any workers had ever become ill due to radioactive exposure. Finally, in 2001 the Labor Department established the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program to give sickened workers the chance to apply for compensation to pay for lost wages and medical bills. Despite the Energy Department’s earlier claims, around 86,000 claimants have collected $7.4 billion since the program began.

The head of the group that made the FOIA request called the humorous tone of the hypotheticals inappropriate. She said the fact that they would be used shows that Labor Department officials are disrespectful of claimants and their families.

The Labor Department had not commented on the manual’s contents as of Sept. 27.

Source: CBS News, “Manual made jokes about sick atomic workers,” Sept. 27, 2011

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