Text of Clinton's beryllium statement
July 16, 1999
Here is the text of President Clinton's statement yesterday on occupational illness compensation for energy contractor personnel.
Contractor personnel working for the Department of Energy (DOE) and its predecessor agencies helped our Nation win the Cold War but often faced dangerous working conditions. A small number of them were exposed to beryllium, a metal used in the production of weapons, and subsequently contracted chronic beryllium disease (CBD), a debilitating lung disease for which there is no cure. Most of those exposed worked under contract for the DOE and are not covered by the federal workers' compensation program. As a result, many of those with CBD have not received the occupational illness benefits otherwise available to regular federal employees.
Today, I am pleased to announce that my administration will submit draft legislation to the Congress that would create a new program to give DOE contractor employees with CBD and beryllium sensitivity the same benefits - certain medical costs and lost wages - now available to federal employees. The American people believe in fairness, and I am sure that they would find it fair to provide this reasonable compensation to this small group of people who contributed so much to their county's well-being and who now are suffering from this incurable disease.
Under my draft legislation, the Department of Labor would administer a program similar to the Federal Employee Compensation Act (FECA) program, which currently provides federal workers a proportion of lost wages, medical costs, rehabilitation, and training. My draft legislation also would compensate workers whose beryllium sensitivity forced them into lower-paying jobs. As with all workers' compensation systems, the program will serve as an "exclusive remedy," barring individuals with work-related illnesses claims from bringing litigation against the federal government.
Recognizing that other toxic and radioactive materials also may contribute to occupational illnesses, I direct you to participate in an interagency review led by the National Economic Council focusing on whether there are other illnesses that warrant inclusion in this program and how this should be accomplished. This interagency review should be completed by March 31, 2000.
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