Sunday, November 1, 2015

Fred Thompson, R.I.P.

RIP, Fred Dalton Thompson.  Fred Thompson was noted for his Watergate committee lawyer, his courageous trial lawyer worker on behalf of Tennessee pardon and parole board whistleblower plaintiff Marie Ragghianti and for his marvelous acting career. 
Less well known was Senator Thompson's March 22, 2000 hearing and subsequent shoddy coverup of the U.S. Department of Energy, predecessors and contractors like Union Carbide and Lockheed Martin poisoning and sickening some 600,000 nuclear weapons plant workers, leading to enactment of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA), which I called the $150,000 bribe bill. 
The DOE-drafted EEOICPA, pushed by Thompson, is deeply flawed.  While EEOICPA has disbursed billions of dollars in "CONpensation" payments, it is still  denying workers fair hearings, discovery, appeals and due process.
Thompson died of lymphoma, one of those radiogenic cancers that so many downwinders and many nuclear weapons plant workers die from, poisoned by our own government.
As I informed a House subcommittee's September 2000 hearing:
Senate Amendment 3250 to S. 2549, the Thompson-DOE amendment does not require:
1.         Coverage of all sick workers and residents hurt by DOE toxicants.
2.         Full funding of lifetime compensation and medical benefits by making the polluters pay.
3.         Open public hearings with testimony under oath before independent DOL administrative law judges, as provided for black lung claims (instead, the Thompson amendment uses government doctors to decide claims).
4.         Subpoena power and easy access to documents and answers from DOE and contractor managers (incredibly, Thompson amendment requires a separate federal court lawsuit to force discovery, after first waiting 180 days!).
5.         Appeals to the DOL Benefits Review Board and judicial review by the Court of Appeals, as provided for black lung and longshore workers' compensation claims.
6.         Strict action-forcing deadlines for government action, with claims being granted if the government waits too long.
7.         Payment of full reasonable attorney fees, expert witness fees and other litigation expenses at market rates and a ban on attorney solicitation and percentage contingency fees, as in black lung (instead, attorneys would be free to charge contingency fees, reducing the $200,000 lump sum to as little as $100,000 after expenses).
8.         An end to the Federal Tort Claims Act discretionary function exemption for ultrahazardous activities, preserving worker rights to sue.
9.         Coverage for genetic injuries to spouses, families, children and grandchildren of workers and for injuries caused by dangerous chemicals and heavy metals like cyanide, mercury and hydrogen fluoride.
10.       Independence of the Department of Energy in deciding compensation and independent lifetime medical care and research, free of influence by DOE and its contractors.

Rather than a fitting memorial to sick workers and residents whose suffering made the Cold War victory possible, Sen. Thompson's bill is guaranteed to result in denials and delays.  What is this weak DOE-drafted Senate Floor amendment going to accomplish?
Do DOE and Sen. Thompson think that U.S. government doctors lacking in independence could fairly decide cases? He must not remember the Reagan administration's efforts to pressure independent Social Security Administration administrative law judges to deny benefits, sending SSA judges those who found too many workers disabled to what Rep. Frank called "remedial judging school."
In one of my favorite movies, "The Hunt for Red October," a U.S. Navy admiral (portrayed by none other than veteran character actor Fred Dalton Thompson) said (I must paraphrase): "The Russians don't (go to the bathroom) without a plan." What is DOE's plan?  DOE wants to prevent workers from using subpoena power to prove their injuries in open public hearings.  DOE wants to conceal wrongdoing while throwing crumbs to its victims.   If the devil is in the details, then the Thompson-DOE Amendment is an energumen: it will not silence the victims or meet their needs.

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