The U.S. Department of Labor has announced that it has paid more than $400 million in compensation and medical benefits to Colorado residents under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA).

The act was created to assist individuals who became ill as a result of working in the atomic weapons industry. Survivors of such individuals may also be eligible for benefits. Since the implementation of the act, the Labor Department has paid 50,574 claimants more than $4.7 billion in compensation and medical benefits nationwide.

The EEOICPA is divided into two parts, B and E, each having unique criteria for awarding benefits. On July 31, 2001, the Labor Department began administering Part B of the EEOICPA. Part B covers current or former workers with cancers, beryllium disease or silicosis caused by occupational exposure to radiation, beryllium or silica.

Employees of the Department of Energy, DOE contractors or subcontractors, designated Atomic Weapons Employers and beryllium vendors potentially are eligible under Part B. Individuals or their survivors found eligible under Part B may receive a lump sum compensation payment of $150,000 and medical expenses for their covered condition.

Part E of the act was created as an amendment to the EEOICPA in October 2004, transferring the old Part D from the Department of Energy to the Department of Labor. Part E provides coverage to Energy Department contractor or subcontractor employees who developed any illness, including cancer, beryllium disease and silicosis, as a result of occupational exposure to a toxic substance at a covered department facility. Workers found eligible under Part E of the EEOICPA receive payment of their medical expenses for their covered illnesses and may also be eligible for impairment and/or wage loss compensation. Survivors found eligible under Part E receive a lump sum compensation payment of $125,000 and may also be eligible to receive additional compensation if the worker experienced wage loss due to the accepted condition.

Colorado is home to several facilities covered under the EEOICPA, including the Rocky Flats Plant, Coors Porcelain, Grand Junction Operations Center, Green Sludge Plant in Uravan, Rulison Nuclear Explosion Site Project, Rio Blanco Nuclear Explosion Site Project, Shattuck Chemical, and Uranium Mill in Durago.

The Labor Department maintains 11 resource centers nationwide that provide in-person and telephone-based assistance to service individuals regardless of where they live. The toll-free number to inquire about potential eligibility is 866-540-4977.