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Radiation Exposure Compensation Act: Program Status

GAO-07-1037R Published: Sep 07, 2007. Publicly Released: Sep 07, 2007.
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From 1945 through 1962, the United States conducted a series of aboveground atomic weapons tests as it built up its Cold War nuclear arsenal. Around this same time period, the United States also conducted underground uranium-mining operations and related activities, which were critical to the production of the atomic weapons. Many people were exposed to radiation resulting from the nuclear weapons development and testing program, and such exposure is presumed to have produced an increased incidence of certain serious diseases, including various types of cancer. To make partial restitution to these individuals, or their eligible surviving beneficiaries, for their hardships associated with the radiation exposure, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) was enacted on October 15, 1990. 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's Torts Branch. RECP began processing claims in April 1992. RECA has been amended various times, including on July 10, 2000, when the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2000 (RECA Amendments of 2000) were enacted. The RECA Amendments of 2000 broadened the scope of eligibility for benefits to include two new occupationally exposed claimant categories (uranium mill workers and uranium ore transporters), expanding both the time periods and geographic areas covered, and adding compensable diseases, thus allowing more individuals to be eligible to qualify. The RECA Trust Fund is scheduled to terminate in 2022 pursuant to a sunset provision in the legislation. The RECA Amendments of 2000 also mandated that we report to Congress on DOJ's administration of RECA not later than 18 months after the enactment of the amendments and every 18 months thereafter. We have reported three times previously on DOJ's administration of RECA. This report updates information on DOJ's administration of RECA including the outcome of the claims adjudication process, including the number and status of claims approved, denied, and pending since RECP began in April 1992; average processing time for claims; and RECP's current estimates of the number of future claims to be paid from the RECA Trust Fund, associated funding requirements, and RECP administrative costs.

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Claims processingClaims processing costsClaims settlementHealth hazardsJudicial remediesNuclear weapons testingProgram evaluationUraniumProgram goals or objectivesProgram implementation