Nevada Senator Harry Reid honors petitioners Lori Hunton, Paul Stednick and Peter White from the Nevada Test Site for their dedication in seeking Special Exposure Cohort status to be compensated for illness related to their work at the Nevada Test Site.
Las Vegas, NV- Nevada Senator Harry Reid today met with Cold War veterans and families of Nevada Test Site (NTS) workers who have been fighting for compensation from the federal government for injuries and illnesses they sustained as a result of their work at the Test Site. Senator Reid began fighting for these workers 10 years ago with the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. Reid continued working with workers, survivors, and experts to create and submit a Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) Petition for NTS workers employed from 1963 until 1992. In May of this year 1,265 potentially eligible Nevada Test Site workers were added to the SEC so that they and their families can finally get the compensation and recognition they deserve.
Petitioners Lori Hunton, Peter White and Paul Stednick submitted written testimony for the petition, testified in person at Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health meetings, and spent countless hours helping to get others to do the same. Reid thanked them for their tireless efforts and collaboration with his office, presenting a copy of the Congressional Record Statement he made on their behalf.
Lori’s father, Oral Triplett, died when she was 16 years old. After working at NTS from 1962 through 1970, Lori’s father was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1975. Later that year, he passed away leaving behind 4 children and a widow. A poignant memory from Lori’s childhood is a day she came home from school and her dad had little red welts on his face. She remember thinking it was “cool” that her dad had little red cheerios on his face—little did she know they were caused by radiation that would ultimately lead to her father’s death. Lori’s family actually received compensation through the Pre-1963 SEC after Reid’s office helped her to prove her dad had enough overtime and overnight stays to satisfy the 250 day requirement but she still kept fighting for the SEC Petition celebrated today.
Paul Stednick was a labor foreman out at the test site from 1966 to 1994. He was originally denied compensation by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health because his dose reconstruction did not meet the standards. Yet when he worked at the test site, for many years radiation levels were not measured and safety precautions were not taken. Paul will be receiving compensation because of the new SEC.
Peter White was a plumber and pipefitter at the test site from 1985 to 1989. During his time at the test site, he was consistently told not to wear his pocket dosimeter while welding in the tunnels, making it difficult to prove his radiation exposure. Peter tried to submit an SEC petition on his own but gave up because of the red tape. He was happy to join his fellow petitioners and Senator Reid’s office in submitting the petition celebrated today, which was truly a team effort. Peter will also be receiving compensation because of the recently passed SEC.
Below are Reid’s remarks as prepared:
“I first want to thank Lori, Paul and Peter for their courage, their sacrifices and their relentless dedication to correcting such a grave injustice.
“They were the faces of this fight – writing letters, testifying and helping so many others do the same. But I know there are many here today who worked right by their side, fighting with them every step of the way. So I give my deepest gratitude to you all.
“You know, people forget that the Cold War was in fact a real war – one that, like any war, came with real casualties. And Nevada was a very real battlefield in that long struggle against the evils of communism.
“We won that war for a number of reasons – not the least of which was our military’s willingness and readiness to do anything at a moment’s notice.
“But the unsung heroes of the Cold War were people like Paul, Peter, Lori’s father and many others here today. They and you put your health and their lives on the line.
“By the time the Berlin Wall fall – and by the time the Soviet Union fell soon after – many Nevadans who worked at the Test Site were in terribly bad health. Some had lost their lives.
“They had no idea another new, grueling fight was about to begin. They had no idea that after dedicating their careers to breaking down the Red Army, they’d next have to break through red tape.
“That’s why, with you help, we made sure that each and every one of Nevada’s Cold War veterans – and their families – can get the compensation they deserve. It’s the least their country can do for them.
“A United States Senator has many responsibilities and obligations. There is never a shortage of emergencies to address. But working with people like Lori, Paul and Peter to right a wrong like this is the most rewarding work I can think of.”