Hanford

Help arrives today. Ill Hanford workers and families can get answers at new center

The Hanford Workforce Engagement Center opened April 2 to help current and former Hanford workers and their families understand resources available for medical screening and compensation and medical care for ill workers.
The Hanford Workforce Engagement Center opened April 2 to help current and former Hanford workers and their families understand resources available for medical screening and compensation and medical care for ill workers. Courtesy Department of Energy

A new center opened Monday to help guide Hanford workers, retirees and their families through the maze of available Hanford health screening and compensation programs.

Help at the new center is free.

It is at 309 Bradley Blvd., Suite 120, and appointments can be made by calling 509-376-4932. The center is open 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

“It’s critical that the men and women who are on the ground carrying out this dangerous (Hanford environmental cleanup) work get the attention and care they need and deserve,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. She and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., championed the new center.

The center is staffed with union and nonunion Hanford nuclear reservation workers trained in the options available through occupational health programs.

They can guide former workers to free medical screening for conditions that could be linked to Hanford work, ranging from hearing loss to lung cancer.

They also will help ill workers or their survivors understand the state and federal government compensation programs, and the advantages of each.

I’m pleased that DOE has coordinated with Hanford contractors and the unions to open the Hanford Workforce Engagement Center, a first-of-its-kind facility, which will help Hanford workers and their beneficiaries understand options for compensation and care.

Doug Shoop, manager of the Department of Energy Richland Operations Office

Workers could be eligible for compensation payments, lost wages and reimbursement for medical care for a wide range of illnesses under the federal and state programs.

The Washington Legislature passed a new law this year that will make the state worker compensation program much easier to qualify for, including for some workers who previously have had their claims denied.

Survivors of workers who had illnesses such as cancer after being employed at Hanford also may be eligible for compensation.

Current workers can get information on filing claims through Hanford’s third-party administrator for workers’ compensation and the site’s beryllium program. Exposure to the metal beryllium at Hanford can lead to lung disease.

The staff at the center also will have information on programs offered by individual past and current contractors at Hanford.

The center is a partnership among the Department of Energy, DOE’s Hanford contractors and two key union organizations — the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council and the Central Washington Building and Construction Trades Council.

Cantwell became concerned about the compensation claims process based on talks with Hanford workers in 2016.

She and Murray asked the DOE Office of Inspector General to investigate the process for state claims and how the state worker compensation was being administered by DOE.

The senators also got language included in the report for the fiscal 2018 budget bill for Hanford. The language, asking DOE to establish a resource center for Hanford workers, then was included in the federal spending signed into law in March.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews

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