Local nuclear workers eligible for money, health care coverage

The health effects of nuclear plants can be deadly. Many people still suffer from health problems related to working at a nuclear or uranium plant.

Alton Herndon, who worked construction at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, is one of them. "A lot of people I worked with died from asbestosis, so I knew what to expect and look forward to," Herndon said about his diagnosis.

"I worked with asbestos off and on all the time, so I knew all of a sudden it was giving me a problem," Herndon said. He lives with asbestosis, a chronic lung disease from inhaling asbestos fibers.

Nuclear and uranium workers, like Herndon, are eligible for money and health care coverage from the government. It took Herndon several years to get the coverage, but now he is covered.

To qualify, you had to have worked at a nuclear or uranium plant for at least 250 days. You have to have an illness linked to working in the plant.

Many people locally qualify, yet have not filed a claim.

Hundreds of former nuclear workers came together to learn about what help they can get at the Cold War Patriots resource fair.

Tim Lerew with the Cold War Patriots said the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) was made to help people who suffer from lifetime effects of nuclear plants.

"There is cash compensation up to $400,000. There is free lifetime medical with no cap, no co-pay, no deductible," said Lerew. "So, in a lot of ways, much better than what Medicare can provide."

He estimates 700,000 people nationally and tens of thousands of people locally have a claim and can get help. Current employees and survivors of employees may also qualify for those benefits.

If you want to file your claim, head to the Energy Resource Center that is off Interstate 24 Exit 7 in Paducah. The center can help you determine if you qualify.

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