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Navajos Seek Essential Amendments from Congress

Navajos Seek Essential Amendments from Congress
July 09
11:39 2018

The Navajo Nation is urging Congress to amend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) as the time period to file claims for compensation is set to end four years from today on July 9, 2022.

The public and families impacted by uranium mining are invited to attend the next public meeting regarding Navajo’s advocacy of the amendments on July 31, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock, New Mexico.

“Many members of the federal government are not aware of the effects uranium mining has had on Navajo people,” President Russell Begaye said. “They don’t see the consequences of radiation exposure. They don’t feel the pain of losing children, parents and grandparents to the uranium contamination that still exists on our land.”

“This is why we are asking the federal government to take further action,” he continued, “and we are encouraging our people to continue to make their voices heard. What we need now is for Congress to hold a markup on pending RECA legislation to expand compensation for the uranium miners, millers and drillers who should have been included in the first place.”

Written comments and testimony from the public will be accepted at the upcoming meeting, and caseworkers will be available on site to provide assistance.

The RECA Amendments of 2017, the most recent group of amendments, remain in committee in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. Tribal leaders have sought these amendments since 2009.

The proposed amendments, if passed, will allow Post-1971 uranium miners who worked in mines from 1972 to 1990 to become eligible for compensation if they were affected by radiation exposure. Underground and surface uranium miners suffering from kidney failure or kidney cancer will also be eligible for compensation.

Furthermore, additional downwind counties affected by nuclear testing in Nevada will become eligible for compensation.

The Office of the President and Vice President, Navajo Nation Council, Navajo Nation Washington Office, Navajo Department of Health, Navajo Uranium Workers Program and Navajo Uranium Radiation Victims Committee have worked to track this legislation in Congress.

In the effort to push for hearings on issues of uranium contamination and exposure, President Begaye has sent letters to members of Congress, including several addressed to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. In August 2017, President Begaye later hosted members of Congress and their staff on the Navajo Nation to highlight the effects of uranium mining.

On June 27, Vice President Jonathan Nez, Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, advocates, and a group of Navajo uranium workers affected by radiation exposure provided testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary regarding the eligibility requirements for RECA.

“The individuals who worked in the uranium mines after 1971 were exposed to the same harmful working conditions and now have many of the same ailments as those who worked before 1971,” Vice President Nez said. “There needs to be fair and just compensation, and adequate healthcare for all men and women uranium workers for their risks and sacrifices.”

In addition to requesting RECA coverage for Post-1971 workers, Vice President Nez echoed Navajo leadership’s previous requests for assistance in the cleanup of the more than 500 abandoned uranium mines that have the potential to continue the spread of radiation.

Recently, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján called on the House Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing on RECA. Thus far, a hearing has not been scheduled.

For additional information on the public meeting, please contact Sylvia A. Tyler, program manager for the Navajo Uranium Workers Program, at (505) 368-1260/1262 or Sylvia.Tyler@nndoh.org. For more information on Navajo uranium advocacy efforts, please contact Jackson Brossy, executive director for the Navajo Nation Washington Office at (202) 682-7390 or jbrossy@nnwo.org.

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