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Information About the New L&I Law for Hanford Workers

It is now official Hanford workers are covered by  a new law. This new law makes it much easier and less expensive for Hanford workers to successfully open an L&I occupational disease claim.

What is This New Law?

This new law creates a legal presumption that certain medical conditions of Hanford workers are occupational diseases. The medical conditions are:

A. respiratory disease;
B. heart problems, experienced within 72 hours of exposure to fumes, toxic substances, or chemicals at the site;
C. certain cancers as specified in the new law; Cancer coverage is different.
D. acute and chronic beryllium disease;
E. neurological disease

What the Law Doesn’t Do.

This new law doesn’t prove your claim. You have to file and prove your claim. But now you can do it, because the playing field has been leveled. This new law creates a legal presumption which makes it easier to prove your claim.

What is a Legal Presumption?

The legal presumption created by this new law is a procedural rule designed to assist persons when they are proving a claim. As it applies to this new law, the listed diseases and conditions will now be presumed to be work related unless proven otherwise.

Why is this Presumption Helpful?

  • As the law was previously written, without a presumption, a Hanford worker had to prove that their medical condition was job related.  This required expensive and hard to get medical testimony.
  • Under the new law, the worker first shows they have a specified medical condition, and then this medical condition will be presumed to be related to their job. If the employer chooses to fight the claim, the employer will have to prove the medical condition is not job related.
  • This presumption applies to the worker during employment, and after employment, for their lifetime.
  • This presumption will even apply for the benefit of beneficiaries (spouses and dependent children) after the death of the Hanford worker.
  • Said another way this legal presumption is helpful because Hanford workers’ occupational disease claims will now be easier to prove.

What is an Occupational Disease?

An occupational disease is a job related medical condition which typically develops slowly and over time. For example, a tank farm worker who repeatedly breathes chemical vapors, is at risk to develop a neurological disease. That on the job neurological disease is an occupational disease. For a lengthy definition, see occupational disease.

But Wait… There’s More Good News…

  • Old occupational disease claims previously denied by order can now be refiled as a new claim and reassessed using this new law. This is a big benefit to those Hanford workers and their widows who had their claim previously denied by order.
  • Your Attorney fees might be paid for by your employer. When a determination involving the presumption established in this section is appealed to the board of industrial insurance appeals and the final decision allows the claim of benefits, the board of industrial insurance appeals shall order that all reasonable costs of the appeal, including attorneys’ fees and witness fees, be paid to the worker or his or her beneficiary by the opposing party.
  • Statute of Limitations (SOL) is favorable for occupational diseases. The statute of limitations is a time deadline by which a claim must be filed.  For occupational diseases, (not injuries), the SOL is 2 years from the date a doctor informs the worker in writing of both the occupational disease and that a claim can be filed.  Since that  specificity and detail is usually lacking in these matters, the result is that most workers, and their spouses, have at least 2 years and likely more than 2 years, often a lifetime to file an occupational disease claim.

Who is a Hanford Site Worker?

“A United States department of energy Hanford site worker” and “Hanford Site Worker” means any person, including a contractor or subcontractor, who was engaged in the performance of work either directly or indirectly, for the United States, regarding projects and contracts at the Hanford nuclear site and who worked on the site at the 200 east, 200 west, 300 area, environmental restoration disposal facility site, central plateau, or the river corridor locations for at least one eight-hour shift while covered under this title.

Where Can I Find This New Law?

RCW 51.32.187

Why Do Handford Workers Get a Special Law that Applies Only to Them?

Hanford workers are employed by or ultimately work on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy. (DOE)

The DOE has repeatedly denied access to information about chemical exposures, resulting in an unfair failure to protect and help these workers. Hanford workers have been doing the secret and dirty work of this nation since the 1940’s, yet they have been rewarded by being effectively shut out of the workers’ compensation system. This is so because proof of an occupational disease claim requires a physician to know and understand the chemicals and toxins involved and connect them to the terrible diseases these workers are contracting. This can’t be done when nobody, not even the DOE knows what the chemicals are, the DOE doesn’t keep adequate track of exposures, and the DOE is self policed and not subject to Washington State  L&I regulation.

Who is Responsible for This New Law?

The authors of this new law should be congratulated. It is the result of hard work by the Labor and Workplace Standards House Committee, Representative Haler and others; to include;Jeffery Johnson,Washington State Labor Council; Nickolas Bumpaous, United Association Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 598; Melinda Rouse; Lonnie Rouse; Abelardo Garza; Bertolla Bugarin; Seth Ellingsworth; Don Slaugh, Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council; Tom Carpenter, Hanford Challenge; Steven Gilbert, Institute of Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders; Richard Lipsky, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility; Michael White, Washington State Council of Fire Fighters; and Susannah Frame, King 5 Chief Investigative Reporter:

Other Hanford Workers’ Benefits

In addition to the new Washington State L&I law above mentioned, there are federal benefits for Hanford workers:

What’s Next

Hanford Workers’ Help  Page 
How to Get Started With Your Hanford L&I Claim
Money and Medical Benefits on Hanford Claims
Cancer Coverage For Hanford Workers
How to Win My Hanford L&I Claim
L&I Claims – A Beginners Complete Guide to Job Injuries
L&I Settlements

Want to Contact Us:

Call for information or a free strategy session – 206-343-1988

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