For former nuclear workers in the Augusta area fighting for compensation for cancer and other exposure-driven health complications, an ally opened two offices last week to bolster their efforts.
Critical Nurse Staffing opened one office in Augusta and one in Aiken to centralize its efforts to help clients navigate what it called the “cumbersome” claims process under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act.
The legislation is designed to cover Department of Energy workers and uranium miners who suffer from cancers and illnesses linked to exposure. It also provides compensation to some qualified survivors of those workers.
The legislation is very specific, though, and claimants trying to navigate the process on their own are often denied, some as many as three or more times. Jimmy Walker, former Savannah River Site operator, had claims denied three times before he started working with CNS.
“We get clients to the right resources and help them get the language in their claims correct,” said Tavy Perry, CNS community outreach liaison.
Perry said the organization works with physicians and legal professionals to better organize and structure the claims, increasing their chances of approval. Walker said he has more confidence in his fourth claim, now under review after help from CNS.
“They have been very helpful,” Walker said. “I was denied all those times before, but this time things have a much better outlook.”
Walker worked on HB Line at SRS for 21 years under both DuPont and Westinghouse. According to Walker’s documentation, he is among the top 10 on the list of highest radiation exposure cases in the site’s history.
HB Line processes plutonium and was the driver for creation of Pu-238, the material used to power many of NASA’s deep-space exploration vehicles. According to studies, plutonium atoms can latch on to organs in the body, as well as bones, and continue to emit radiation from the inside as they decay.
Walker recently had health coverage through his retirement package but said changes have made it expensive. Several years ago he had a tumor removed from his chest and continues to fight heart disease and cardiovascular issues. All of his previous applications for compensation were denied.
“It’s a good central operating facility for training, for administration, and for education,” said Jamie Sharpe, CNS chief operating officer. “For a lot of people, this is a long process. We are here to help them get through that, to connect with the right resources, and to get through the claims process.”
He said CNS directly handles the home health care needs of clients but is a central partner with medical providers, attorneys and other advocates to create a coalition to assist clients.
Perry said he’s pleased that he can help those who need it.
“I am very proud to be a part of this journey and with this family, because I have my own family members who are part of SRS and the community,” he said. “It’s a personal testament to be able to help and serve all of you who have families who are affected.”
The new offices are located at 3540 Wheeler Road in Augusta and 640 Old Airport Road in Aiken. CNS offers monthly breakfasts for clients and community members with questions about EEOICPA. The next meeting will be held at Golden Corral on Whiskey Road in Aiken at 11:30 a.m. Thursday. For more information about CNS or the compensation act, contact Perry at 1-877-259-9001 or Tavy.Perry@cnscares.com
Reach Thomas Gardiner at (706)823-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org