Washington, DC - The Justice Department announced today that it has awarded more than $2 billion in compassionate compensation to eligible claimants under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).
The RECA was enacted in 1990 as a non-adversarial alternative to litigation for individuals who contracted certain illnesses following exposure to radiation as a result of the United States’ atmospheric nuclear testing program and uranium ore processing operations during the Cold War. Congress expanded the scope of the law’s coverage in 2000. In its present form, the RECA provides lump sum compensation awards to individuals who contracted specified diseases in three defined populations: uranium miners, millers and ore transporters who are eligible for $100,000 per claim; participants in atmospheric nuclear weapons tests who are eligible for $75,000 per claim; and individuals who lived downwind of the Nevada Test Site (downwinders) who are eligible for $50,000 per claim.
“RECA claimants worked in hazardous occupations and were subjected to increased risk of disease to serve the national security interests of the United States,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “This extraordinary statute provides partial restitution to these individuals and their families for the sacrifices they made during a critical time in our nation’s history.”
Compensation has been awarded to individuals residing in every state. Since 1990, nearly 43,000 claims have been filed and 32,000 claims have been approved. Residents of the Four Corners Region of the American southwest have filed the majority of RECA claims. The department has awarded more than 9,400 claims filed by residents of Arizona, valued at more than $500 million. Approximately 3,800 claims filed by residents of New Mexico have been awarded, valued at nearly $350 million, and approximately 5,800 claims filed by Utah residents have been awarded, valued at approximately $330 million. Colorado residents have received awards in more than 3,200 claims, valued at more than $213 million.
Awards to Native American claimants total approximately $264 million distributed among members of 17 different tribes. The department has awarded more than 2,800 claims filed by members of the Navajo Nation, valued at more than $212 million. In addition, the department has awarded more than $24 million to members of the Laguna Pueblo Tribe and more than $9 million to members of the Apache Tribes.
Since 1990, the department has awarded more than 3,600 claims filed by veterans, civil servants and contractors who participated onsite in atmospheric nuclear tests, valued in excess of $266 million. Nearly $100 million of this compensation was awarded following a surge in claims filed in 2011 and 2012.
“This benchmark reflects the department’s efforts to help thousands of U.S. citizens reach closure on a unique chapter of our history,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kali N. Bracey of the Civil Division’s Torts Branch. The RECA is administered by the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program, a component of the Constitutional and Specialized Torts Litigation section within the Torts Branch.
The Department of Justice is a part of a broad inter-agency network that includes the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Energy, comprising the comprehensive federal radiation compensation system. Eligibility determinations are routinely coordinated with these agencies.
The RECA will expire on July 9, 2022, and claims received after that date will be barred. Individuals interested in filing a claim may visit the department’s RECA website or contact the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program at 800-729-7327.