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Washington, DC 20548: 

September 28, 2005: 

Congressional Committees: 

Subject: Radiation Exposure Compensation Act: Program Status: 

From 1945 through 1962, the United States conducted a series of 
aboveground atomic weapons tests as it built up its Cold War nuclear 
arsenal. Many people who were exposed to radiation resulting from the 
nuclear weapons development and testing program subsequently developed 
serious diseases, including various types of cancer. On October 15, 
1990, in order to establish a procedure to make partial restitution to 
these victims for their suffering associated with the radiation 
exposure, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) was 
enacted.[Footnote 1] RECA provided that the Attorney General be 
responsible for processing and adjudicating claims under the act. The 
Department of Justice (DOJ) established the Radiation Exposure 
Compensation Program (RECP), which is administered by its Civil 
Division. RECP began processing claims in April 1992. RECA has been 
amended several times,[Footnote 2] including on July 10, 2000, when the 
RECA Amendments of 2000 were enacted.[Footnote 3] The amendments of 
2000 broadened the scope of eligibility for benefits coverage to 
include new victim categories and modified the criteria for determining 
eligibility for compensation. 

The 2000 amendments also included a mandate that we report to the 
Congress on DOJ's administration of RECA not later than 18 months after 
the enactment of the amendments and every 18 months 
thereafter.[Footnote 4] We have reported twice previously on DOJ's 
administration of RECA.[Footnote 5]

In our last report, we identified the potential for a funding shortage 
in the compensation trust fund. We recommended that the Attorney 
General consult with the congressional committees of jurisdiction to 
develop a strategy to address the gap between current funding levels 
and the amount of funding estimated to be needed to pay claims 
projected to be approved over the 2003 to 2011 period. 

This report follows up on our previous recommendation and updates 
information on the status of the RECA program, including the (1) status 
of funds available to pay claims and pay program administration costs; 
(2) status of claims approved, denied, and pending; (3) processing 
times; and (4) the total of compensation awards. According to DOJ, the 
information provided was obtained from the same data sources that we 
had previously determined to be reliable. We did not revalidate the 
data from these sources; we believe they are sufficiently reliable for 
the purposes of this update. 

We conducted our review from June 2005 through August 2005, in 
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. 

Background: 

RECA established a procedure to make partial restitution to individuals 
who contracted serious diseases, such as certain types of cancers, 
presumably resulting from exposure to radiation from aboveground 
nuclear tests or as a result of their employment in the uranium 
industry. In addition to creating eligibility criteria for 
compensation, RECA created a Trust Fund to pay claims. The Attorney 
General is responsible for reviewing applications to determine whether 
applicants qualify for compensation and establishing procedures for 
paying claims. To discharge these responsibilities, the Attorney 
General has issued implementing regulations.[Footnote 6]

The regulations established RECP within DOJ's Civil Division and 
charged it with administering claims adjudication and compensation 
under the act. To file for compensation, the claimant or eligible 
surviving beneficiary, either acting on his or her own behalf or 
represented by counsel, submits the appropriate claim forms along with 
corroborating documentation to RECP, whose claims examiners and legal 
staff review and adjudicate the claims. If the claim is approved, a 
letter is sent notifying the person of the approval and enclosing an 
"acceptance of payment" form for the claimant to return to RECP. 
According to program officials, upon receipt of a signed acceptance of 
payment form, DOJ authorizes the Treasury Department to make payment 
from the Trust Fund. For more detailed information on the RECA claims 
adjudication process, see our April 2003 report. 

The RECA Amendments of 2000 broadened the scope of eligibility for 
benefits coverage, including increasing the geographical area covered, 
allowing more individuals to qualify. Figure 1 shows the current areas 
affected under RECA. 

Figure 1 shows the current geographic areas that represent the scope of 
eligibility for benefits coverage under RECA. 

Figure 1: Map of RECA-Covered Areas: 

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

In September 2002, in response to congressional direction[Footnote 7] 
the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)[Footnote 8] 
asked the National Research Council[Footnote 9] to convene a committee 
to assess recent scientific evidence associating radiation exposure 
with cancers or other human health effects and determine whether other 
groups of people or additional geographic areas should be covered under 
RECA. In 2005, the committee published its report that included among 
its recommendations, whether persons from other states and territories 
should be considered for coverage under RECA.[Footnote 10]

In addition, the RECA amendments of 2000 amended a portion of the 
Public Health Service Act to authorize competitive grants to state and 
local governments, and appropriate health-care organizations, to 
initiate and support programs for health screening, education, medical 
referral, and appropriate follow-up services for persons eligible under 
RECA. HRSA oversees the grants as part of the Radiation Exposure 
Screening and Education Program. Table 1 shows the program grants 
awarded between fiscal years 2002 and 2005. 

Table 1: Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program grants 
awarded between fiscal years 2002 and 2005: 

Organizations: Utah Navajo Health System, Inc.--Montezuma Creek, UT; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2002: $589; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2003: $210; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2004: $210; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2005: $185. 

Organizations: St. Mary's Hospital and Medical Center--Grand Junction, 
CO; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2002: 581; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2003: 313; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2004: 313; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2005: 276. 

Organizations: Northern Navajo Medical Center--Shiprock, NM; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2002: 517; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2003: 375; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2004: 375; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2005: 336. 

Organizations: Mountain Park Health Center--Phoenix, AZ; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2002: 342; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2003: 306; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2004: 306; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2005: 180. 

Organizations: University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center--
Albuquerque, NM; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2002: 312; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2003: 210; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2004: 210; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2005: 185. 

Organizations: Miners' Colfax Medical Center--Raton, NM; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2002: 271; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2003: 0; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2004: 0; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2005: 0. 

Organizations: Intermountain Health Services--St. George, UT; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2002: 0; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2003: 313; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2004: 313; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2005: 282. 

Organizations: University of Nevada -Reno--NV; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2002: 0; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2003: 0; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2004: 0; 
Fiscal Year --$ in Thousands: 2005: 180. 

Source: Health Resources and Services Administration. 

[End of table]

RECA Program Funding Status Has Improved: 

In April 2003, we reported that projected funding estimates to pay RECA 
claims may be inadequate and recommended that DOJ work with Congress to 
address the funding requirements. After that report, Congress took 
legislative actions to ensure that the RECA program would have 
sufficient funding to pay approved claims for the life of the program. 
According to the DOJ Civil Division's Fiscal Year 2006 Performance 
Budget submission, the actions taken by Congress will ensure that the 
RECA program is fully funded for 2005 and in future years. The major 
changes are as follows: 

* The Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 
Year 2005,[Footnote 11] mandated that uranium millers, miners, and ore 
transporters who are the highest cost claimants, (those entitled to 
$100,000) will still have their claims adjudicated by RECP, but will 
now be compensated through the Energy Employees Occupational Illness 
Compensation Program administered by the Department of Labor.[Footnote 
12] This leaves only 2 out of 5 claimant categories (on-site 
participants entitled to $75,000 and downwinders entitled to $50,000) 
compensated under the RECA program. 

* The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005 appropriated $27.8 
million in addition to the fiscal year 2005 mandatory appropriation to 
the trust fund of $65 million for a total of $92.8 million, which the 
agency said will provide full funding for 2005. 

* Additionally, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005 makes 
funding for downwinders and on-site participants mandatory and 
indefinite beginning in fiscal year 2006. As a result, according to 
agency officials, the appropriation will no longer end in 2011 as 
originally enacted and whatever amounts are required to pay the claims 
will be appropriated. 

More Flexibility Provided to Meet Program Administration Expenses: 

In our last report, we stated that the administrative expense 
appropriation for RECP of about $2 million was insufficient to keep up 
with the number of claims submitted in fiscal years 2001 and 2002. 
However, several legislative changes were made starting with 
appropriations for fiscal year 2003, to help ensure sufficient 
administrative funding would be available to meet future claims 
processing demands. First, for fiscal year 2003, appropriations for the 
programs administrative expenses were no longer contained, as was the 
case in previous years, in a separate account and were instead included 
within DOJ's Salaries and Expenses, General Legal Activities 
account.[Footnote 13] In addition, while the fiscal year 2002 
appropriation included a specific amount for administrative expenses, 
the fiscal year 2003 administrative expenses provision contained a 
specific minimum amount. In accompanying conference report language, 
the conferees provided that they expected the Civil Division to absorb 
any additional requirements for processing RECA claims from other 
resources available to the Civil Division.[Footnote 14] Whereas the 
fiscal year 2004 administrative expense appropriation[Footnote 15] 
mirrored language contained in the fiscal year 2003 appropriation, the 
pertinent fiscal year 2005 appropriations did not contain language 
specific to RECA administrative expenses.[Footnote 16] The House 
Appropriations Committee report for DOJ's fiscal year 2005 
appropriation provided that its recommendation would eliminate language 
for administrative expenses with respect to RECA.[Footnote 17] However, 
this Committee recommended using language in previous appropriations 
acts allowing the Attorney General to provide additional resources to 
the Civil Division, if emergent circumstances warrant, through 
transfers of funds from other DOJ sources, subject to specific 
reprogramming requirements. 

Number of RECA Claims Received: 

When we last reported, RECP had received a total of 14,987 claims 
through fiscal year 2002. As of June 19, 2005, RECP had received 22, 
206 claims. Table 2 shows the number of RECA claims filed each fiscal 
year. 

Table 2: Number of RECA Claims Filed Each Fiscal Year 1992 through 
2005: 

1992: 1,898; 
1993: 1,340; 
1994: 1,207; 
1995: 827; 
1996: 551; 
1997: 408; 
1998: 358; 
1999: 394; 
2000: 837; 
2001: 3,822; 
2002: 3,345; 
2003: 3,105; 
2004: 2,380; 
2005[A]: 1,734. 

Source: RECA claims data from DOJ's Civil Division's case histories 
database. 

[A] Through June 19, 2005. 

[End of table]

Number of Claims Approved, Denied, and Pending: 

When RECP reviews a claim, the review process ends in one of two 
possible outcomes--approval or denial of the claim. For approved onsite 
participant and downwinder claims, the claim is forwarded to the 
Treasury for payment. In the case of uranium worker claims, approved 
claims are forwarded to the Department of Labor for payment. If denied, 
applicants may refile their claims or pursue an administrative appeal 
which is handled by the agency. Of the total 22,206 claims filed, RECP 
reached a disposition on 20,403. The remaining 1,803, or about 8 
percent of claims, were pending, as of June 19, 2005. 

Through June 19, 2005, RECP had approved $926.4 million in awards to 
claimants. Payment approvals include $455.8 million based on downwinder 
applications; $340.8 million to eligible individuals based on uranium 
mine employee applications; $63.6 million based on on-site participant 
applications; $55.0 million based on uranium miller applications; and 
$11.2 million based on ore transporter applications. Table 3 shows the 
number of RECA claims approved, denied, and pending through June 19, 
2005, and the total dollar awards by claimant category. 

Table 3: Number of RECA Claims Approved, Denied, and Pending through 
June 19, 2005: 

Category of Claimant: Downwinder; 
Approved: 9,117; 
Denied: 2,751; 
Pending: 918; 
Total Claims: 12,786; 
Dollar Awards Approved ($ millions): $455.8. 

Category of Claimant: Uranium miner; 
Approved: 3,415; 
Denied: 2,240; 
Pending: 509; 
Total Claims: 6,164; 
Dollar Awards Approved ($ millions): $340.8. 

Category of Claimant: On-site participant; 
Approved: 889; 
Denied: 1,138; 
Pending: 245; 
Total Claims: 2,272; 
Dollar Awards Approved ($ millions): $63.6. 

Category of Claimant: Uranium miller; 
Approved: 550; 
Denied: 147; 
Pending: 111; 
Total Claims: 808; 
Dollar Awards Approved ($ millions): $55.0. 

Category of Claimant: Ore transporter; 
Approved: 112; 
Denied: 44; 
Pending: 20; 
Total Claims: 176; 
Dollar Awards Approved ($ millions): $11.2. 

Category of Claimant: Total; 
Approved: 14,083; 
Denied: 6,320; 
Pending: 1,803; 
Total Claims: 22,206; 
Dollar Awards Approved ($ millions): $926.4. 

Source: Department of Justice, Civil Division: 

[End of table]

Claims Processing Times Have Improved: 

We compared the claims processing times reported to us by DOJ in June 
of 2005, with the processing times at the time of our last report. As 
shown in table 4, claims processing times improved for four out of the 
five categories of claimants. The only category that does not show an 
improved average processing time is on-site participant claims. 

Table 4: Average Number of Days to Process a Claim for Fiscal Years 
1992 through June 2005: 

End of fiscal year 2000; 
Applicant type: Uranium miner: Average number of days to process 
claims: 327; 
Applicant type: Downwinder: Average number of days to process claims: 
244; 
Applicant type: Uranium miller: Average number of days to process 
claims: 459; 
Applicant type: Ore transporter: Average number of days to process 
claims: 392; 
Applicant type: On-site participant: Average number of days to process 
claims: 263. 

As of June 2005; 
Applicant type: Uranium miner: Average number of days to process 
claims: 313; 
Applicant type: Downwinder: Average number of days to process claims: 
222; 
Applicant type: Uranium miller: Average number of days to process 
claims: 335; 
Applicant type: Ore transporter: Average number of days to process 
claims: 351; 
Applicant type: On-site participant: Average number of days to process 
claims: 323. 

Increase/(decrease); 
Applicant type: Uranium miner: Average number of days to process 
claims: (14); 
Applicant type: Downwinder: Average number of days to process claims: 
(22); 
Applicant type: Uranium miller: Average number of days to process 
claims: (124); 
Applicant type: Ore transporter: Average number of days to process 
claims: (41); 
Applicant type: On-site participant: Average number of days to process 
claims: 60. 

Source: Department of Justice Civil Division. 

[End of table]

According to the program director, the increase in processing time for 
on-site participant claims is attributed to the extended periods of 
time requested by the claimants in order to make the election whether 
to accept the RECA award or an award pursuant to the Energy Employees 
Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA). According to 
the RECA statute, if on-site participant claimants accept an award 
under RECA, they will not be eligible to receive any payment or medical 
benefits under EEOICPA, even though they may qualify. Therefore, these 
claimants are provided with sufficient time in which to make this 
election. 

Number of Pending Claims Is Down 32 Percent: 

The proportion of claims received but not yet adjudicated has decreased 
significantly since we last reported. In our last report we stated that 
2,654 of 14,987, or about 18 percent of claims filed, were still 
pending adjudication. According to agency data as of June 2005, the 
total number of pending claims is down to 1,803, or about 8 percent of 
the total 22,206 claims filed. 

Agency Comments: 

We provided a draft of this report to the Attorney General for review 
and comment. The Justice Department had no formal comments. The Civil 
Division reviewed the report for accuracy and provided technical 
comments which have been incorporated in this report where appropriate. 

Copies of this report are being sent to the Attorney General; the 
Director, Office Management and Budget; and any other interested 
parties. We will also make copies available to others upon request. 
Contact points for our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public 
Affairs may be found on the last page of this report. In addition, the 
report will be available at no charge on GAO's Web site at 
http://www.gao.gov. 

If you or your staffs have any questions about this report, please 
contact me at (202) 512-8777 or at jonespl@gao.gov. William W. Crocker 
and Leo M. Barbour made key contributions to this report. 

Paul L. Jones, Director: 
Homeland Security and Justice Issues: 

List of Committees: 

The Honorable Arlen Specter: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy: 
Ranking Minority Member: 
Committee on the Judiciary: 
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Jim Sensenbrenner, Jr.: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.: 
Ranking Minority Member: 
Committee on the Judiciary: 
House of Representatives: 

FOOTNOTES

[1] Pub. L. No. 101-426, 104 Stat. 920 (1990). RECA recognizes that the 
amount of money paid does not completely compensate for the burdens 
placed upon such individuals. 

[2] Early amendments included November 1990 amendments (Pub. L. No. 101-
510, 104 Stat. 1835, 1837) that among other things expanded eligibility 
to include on-site participants and October 1992 amendments (Pub. L. 
No. 102-486, 106 Stat. 3131) that provided for the judicial review of 
denied claims. 

[3] Pub. L. No. 106-245, 114 Stat. 501 (2000). 

[4] Section 11007 of the 21st Century Department of Justice 
Appropriations Authorization Act (Pub. L. No. 107-273, 116 Stat. 1758, 
1818 (2002) made a technical amendment to the GAO reporting requirement 
provisions by striking such reporting provision in the RECA Amendment 
of 2000 and enacting the same reporting requirement provision at a 
different location within RECA. 

[5] GAO, Radiation Exposure Compensation: Analysis of Justice's Program 
Administration, GAO-01-1043, (Washington, D.C: Sept. 17, 2001), and 
GAO, Radiation Exposure Compensation: Funding to Pay Claims May Be 
Inadequate to Meet Projected Needs, GAO-03-481, (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 
14, 2003). 

[6] DOJ implementing regulations for the RECA program are found at Part 
79 of Title 28 Code of Federal Regulations (28 C.F.R. Part 79). 

[7] (H. R. Conference Report No. 107-593, at 158 (2002))

[8] HRSA is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human 
Services. HRSA provides national leadership and program resources and 
services needed to improve access to quality health care for uninsured, 
underserved, and special needs populations. More detailed information 
on HRSA can be obtained through the HRSA web site at www.hrsa.gov. 

[9] The National Research Council is part of the National Academies, 
which also comprise the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy 
of Engineering and Institute of Medicine. They are private, nonprofit 
institutions that provide science, technology and health policy advice 
under a congressional charter. See www.nationalacademies.org. 

[10] National Research Council, Committee to Assess the Scientific 
Information for the Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program, 
Board on Radiation Effects Research, Assessment of the Scientific 
Information for the Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program 
(Washington , D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2005). For reference 
see: www.nap.edu. 

[11] Pub. L. No. 108-375, 118 Stat. 1811, 2187-88 (2004). 

[12] The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program 
compensates certain workers of the Department of Energy (and certain 
contractors and subcontractors) who work or worked at nuclear 
facilities or nuclear weapon testing sites or their survivors, as well 
as RECA covered uranium miners, millers, and ore transporters injured 
by exposure to ultra-hazardous materials, or their survivors. Pub. L. 
No. 106-398, 114 Stat. 1654 (2000). 

[13] Pub. L. No. 108-7, 117 Stat. 11 (2003). 

[14] H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 108-10, at 607 (2003). 

[15] Pub. L. No. 108-199, 118 Stat. 3 (2004). 

[16] Pub. L. No. 108-447, 118 Stat. 2809 (2004). 

[17] H.R. Rep. No. 108-576, at 15 (2004).