Monday, July 21, 2008

Deadly Denial

Deadly Denial


Tens of thousands of America's former nuclear bomb builders are sick, dying or already dead because of their exposure to radiation and other poisons. You knew that.

After decades of stonewalling, the government started a compensation program in 2000. You knew that.

After four years of bungling, Congress reformed the program, demanding that it be "compassionate, fair and timely." Perhaps you knew that.

But what you may not know is that today only one in four claimants has been compensated and millions more of your taxpayer dollars have been wasted creating hurdles instead of help.

For many of the nation's cold warriors, the government's game is deadly denial.


Deadly denial

The Americans who built the nation's nuclear weapons are still fighting a cold war. Tens of thousands of sick nuclear arms workers — or their survivors — from every state in the nation have applied for compensation that Congress established for them in 2000. But most have never seen a dime.

The 12-kiloton nuclear bomb Boltzmann is detonated in 1957 in Nevada. Aid for ill nuclear arms workers this year is expected to be $1 billion, less than the $1.4 billion spent annually to maintain the U.S. nuclear stockpile.

Compensation plan forged within cauldron of politics

The inside story of how the compensation program for sick weapons workers came to be explains why it was once called a "strange beast" with "weird appendages."

Ben Ortiz, a former Los Alamos engineer, lays on a hospital bed as he waits to have a non-cancerous procedure done on his enlarged prostate.

Ben Ortiz was warned that steps to help his case will backfire

Former Los Alamos worker Ben Ortiz was one of the first workers to speak publicly about the ill workers’ plight. But he is still waiting for aid. Government officials told him every time his Senator or Congressman inquires on his behalf about the delay, it only delays his case even more.

Janine Anderson sits on her couch as she talks to a reporter after a video interview, and shows how her liver has grown to overtake all the space in her lower abdomen. Her liver, which has grown exponentially for the past 3 years, is now pushing up to her heart and lungs and has deformed her spinal cord, forcing her to use a wheelchair when traveling for extended distances.

With a 25-pound liver, Janine Anderson was told she isn't too sick

Janine Anderson spent seven years as a secretary at the Oak Ridge nuclear reservation, one of the nation's premier nuclear weapons development and production complexes.

George Barrie looks out the window of his double-semi trailer home in Craig Colorado.

George Barrie is dying. His wife's advocacy work may have become a weapon against him

The pain drives George Barrie from his bed about 3 a.m. — a nightly occurrence. He leaves his sleeping wife and stumbles to his recliner in the living room. He sits down heavily, shifting his weight, trying to make the pain bearable.

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