Amendment urges the U.S. government to compensate miners, workers, downwinders, and others suffering from the effects of uranium mining and nuclear testing[WASHINGTON, DC] – An amendment authored by Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) to care for those exposed to radiation was unanimously approved by the U.S. House of Representatives late last night. The amendment expresses the sense of Congress that it is appropriate for the U.S. government to compensate all miners, workers, downwinders, and others suffering from the effects of uranium mining and nuclear testing carried out during the Cold War.
“Many Americans sacrificed a great deal to ensure our national security. Individuals who worked in the uranium industry, lived near a mining operation or downwind from atomic weapons tests have been exposed to unsafe levels of radiation are now suffering from that exposure, but have not been able to receive the compensation they deserve,” said Lujan. “Families living in the in the Tularosa Basin, the Navajo, Hopi, and Yavapai Apache Indian reservations were particularly affected.”
More than 25 years ago, Congress passed legislation known as the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) which provided compensation for atomic veterans and a limited number of others who contracted cancer as a direct result of their exposure to atmospheric nuclear testing. In 2000, the scope of the law was broadened to include additional individuals who were affected by radiation exposure. Lujan notes that in the past 17 years, lawmakers have learned that many additional individuals who are sick or dying from radiation exposure are unable to receive the compensation they deserve.
Lujan’s amendment and a similar stand-alone bill he’s written expands the scope of individuals who are eligible receive the compensation they deserve.
“Now, with the passage of this amendment, we can send a clear message to those suffering that they have not been forgotten and that Congress is committed to acting. However, this is just a small step forward. Congress must pass the full Radiation Exposure Compensation Act legislation. This is about ensuring fairness to all those who were harmed,” Lujan said.
Both of New Mexico’s other Members of the House, Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) and Steve Pearce (R-NM), are cosponsors of Lujan’s full RECA legislation.