KANSAS CITY, Missouri - A government audit of the Bannister Federal Complex has given birth to a number of new compensation claims. The findings expand who may have been contaminated by the toxin Beryllium.
The General Services Administration at Banister denied they had ever found the toxin on that side of the building. Only a concrete wall separates the GSA from Honeywell, the area of Bannister where nuclear bombs are manufactured.
New tests are being run for the toxin Beryllium, depleted Uranium and chemical vapors.
In the meantime, sick workers are finding paths to compensation from a group called Cold War Soldiers.
Barbara Rice worked at Bannister for 31 years. She explains, “We were book keepers, we were accountants, pay roll clerks and secretaries."
Working in what's now called the General Services Administration, Rice never had access to the side of Bannister used for the making of nuclear bombs.
However, she says there was always speculation of contamination, “For years, a lot of us had speculated of strange things that had happens on our side of the building from collapsing ceiling tiles filled with mold, to a water main break that required us to destroy our clothes."
Now, her husband suffers from Neuropathy, a disease that damages the nervous system, and at least 60 of her co-workers are dead.
Saturday, at a town hall meeting, Donna Hand from Cold War Soldiers said the recent audit is a launching point.
Hand said, “That confirms that these workers were exposed to these toxic substances on both sides and they need to get the compensation that's due to them that Congress has already passed.”
The filing process is lengthy. Hand says it takes medical examinations and proof from doctors that the illness was contracted at work.
She adds specific details about the job you were doing when you got contaminated are vital as well, “What did you do whenever you were soldering? Where were the fumes at? What were you doing when you used that E.B. Welder?" For some, so much time has passed that their time at Bannister is a distant memory. Hand says that makes the claim filing process tough.
Only a small percentage of claims filed are approved. Hand says at most 15% are awarded compensation.
However, the money set aside for Department of Energy workers doesn't cover employees like Rice.
Her job is covered under the Federal Employees Compensation Act which doesn’t include illnesses due to toxin or chemical exposure. She says she’ll file for FECA compensation as well as compensation from the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Program Act.
She expects to be denied from the first because of the act’s limitations and the second because her job title wasn't listed as a DOE job.
Rice says she’ll apply for both to send a message to the government that real people need real help.
She says, “There have been over 100 people who have died that shouldn't have.” Her fight is dedicated to her husband, those friends who are long gone and those who suffer everyday.
Since NBC Action News began its investigation of the Bannister Federal Complex more than a year ago, the list of dead workers has risen to 130.
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