June 27, 2018
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) called on the House Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing to examine the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). Earlier today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled, “Examining the Eligibility Requirements for the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program to Ensure all Downwinders Receive Coverage.” Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), Tina Cordova with the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, and Jonathan Nez, Vice President of the Navajo Nation, all testified at the hearing. Unfortunately, the House Judiciary Committee has not scheduled a similar hearing.
“The community that was ground zero for the detonation of the first atomic bomb has been left behind for decades. Our country must meet its obligation to all of the miners, workers, and downwinders who are still suffering from the impacts of uranium mining and nuclear testing during the Cold War,” said Luján. “These are real people who are hurting and need our help. I’ve even had Navajo elders travel to Washington, D.C. and ask Congress: ‘Are you waiting for us all to die to solve this problem?’ It’s time for the House of Representatives to listen to their stories.”
Nearly 30 years ago, Congress passed RECA to provide 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, Congress broadened the scope of the law to include additional individuals affected by radiation exposure. Since then, lawmakers have learned that many additional individuals who are sick or dying from radiation exposure are still unable to receive the compensation they deserve.
Earlier this year, the House unanimously accepted an amendment Luján offered to the National Defense Authorization Act that expresses the sense of Congress that the U.S. government should compensate all the miners, workers, downwinders, and others suffering from the effects of uranium mining and nuclear testing carried out during the Cold War.
Luján has repeatedly introduced the RECA Amendments to address this failure by further widening qualifications for compensation for radiation exposure; qualifying post 1971 uranium workers for compensation; and expanding the downwind exposure area to include Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico, as well as any county in Arizona, Nevada, or Utah that has been shown to be impacted by downwind contamination.
Luján has previously written to the leadership of the House Judiciary Committee requesting a hearing on his legislation. He also personally met with Chairman Goodlattee to advocate for such a hearing.
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