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Radiation Exposure Compensation Act

NOTICE: Clarification of Definition after the Supreme Court’s Decision in United States v. Windsor. The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act uses the following definition: “the spouse of an individual is a wife or husband of that individual who was married to that individual for at least one year immediately before the death of that individual.” 42 U.S.C. § 2210 note, Sec. 6(c)(4)(C) (2011); 28 C.F.R. § 79.2(o). Consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, the Department of Justice clarifies that this definition, as well as any reference to “marriage” or “married” in the Department’s implementing regulations, 28 C.F.R. Part 79, will be interpreted to include same-sex spouses. All spouses, regardless of gender, must establish their eligibility to file a claim as set forth in 28 C.F.R. § 79.71(e), which lists documents that may be used to establish a marriage and includes documents issued by the jurisdiction in which the marriage was celebrated, such as a public record or certificate of marriage.

Program Summary
The United States conducted nearly 200 atmospheric nuclear weapons development tests from 1945 to 1962. Essential to the nation’s nuclear weapons development was uranium mining and processing, which was carried out by tens of thousands of workers. Following the tests’ cessation in 1962 many of these workers filed class action lawsuits alleging exposure to known radiation hazards. These suits were dismissed by the appellate courts. Congress responded by devising a program allowing partial restitution to individuals who developed serious illnesses after exposure to radiation released during the atmospheric nuclear tests or after employment in the uranium industry: the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (the Act, or RECA), 42 U.S.C. § 2210 note (2006), was passed on October 5, 1990. The Act’s scope of coverage was broadened in 2000.

The Act presents an apology and monetary compensation to individuals who contracted certain cancers and other serious diseases:

  • following their exposure to radiation released during the atmospheric nuclear weapons tests, or
  • following their occupational exposure to radiation while employed in the uranium industry during the Cold War arsenal buildup.  

This unique statute was designed to serve as an expeditious, low-cost alternative to litigation. Significantly, RECA does not require claimants to establish causation. Rather, claimants qualify for compensation by establishing the diagnosis of a listed compensable disease after working or residing in a designated location for a specific period of time. The Act provides compensation to individuals who contracted one of 27 medical conditions. It covers all states where uranium was mined and processed, as well as specified counties in Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, where significant fallout from the atmospheric nuclear testing was measured.

The U.S. Attorney General established the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program within the Constitutional and Specialized Tort Litigation Section in April 1992. The DOJ promulgated regulations for carrying out the program that permit use of existing records so claims could be resolved reliably, objectively, and non-adversarially, with little administrative cost to either the individual filing the RECA claim or the United States government. The initial 1992 regulations were updated in 1997 and revised on March 23, 2004.

RECA establishes lump sum compensation awards for individuals who contracted specified diseases in three defined populations:

Uranium miners, millers, and ore transporters – $100,000;
“Onsite participants” at atmospheric nuclear weapons tests – $75,000; and
individuals who lived downwind of the Nevada Test Site (“downwinders") – $50,000.

Although the Four Corners Region (Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona) residents have filed the majority of RECA claims, the program has awarded compensation to individuals residing in each state, as well as several foreign countries.

Indian Country.  The claimant population includes many Native American tribes. The Program regularly cooperates with members of the Navajo, Hopi, Yavapai Apache, and Spokane nations.  The Program has also visited more than a dozen reservations to meet with tribal leaders and assist members filing RECA claims. The map below illustrates the areas covered by the Act.

 

RECA Covered Areas

RECA Covered Areas:

The Act describes three broad areas of application, and within each, specific geographic limits are defined.

Uranium Worker States:  Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.  The dates of coverage are from January 1, 1942, and ending on December 31, 1971.

Onsite Participants:  Pacific Test Sites, Nevada Test Site, South Atlantic Test Site, Trinity Test Site, any designated location within a naval shipyard, air force base, or other official government installation where ships, aircraft or other equipment used in an atmospheric nuclear detonation were decontaminated; or any designated location used for the purpose of monitoring fallout from an atmospheric nuclear test conducted at the Nevada Test Site.  “Atmospheric detonations of nuclear devices” means only those tests conducted by the United States prior to January 1, 1963.

Downwinder Areas:  in the State of Utah, the counties of Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane, Millard, Piute, San Juan, Sevier, Washington, and Wayne; in the State of Nevada, the counties of Eureka, Lander, Lincoln, Nye, White Pine, and that portion of Clark County that consists of townships 13 through 16 at ranges 63 through 71; and in the State of Arizona, the counties of Apache, Coconino, Gila, Navajo, Yavapai, and that part of Arizona that is north of the Grand Canyon.  The dates of coverage are from January 21, 1951, and ending on October 31, 1958; and from June 30, 1962, and ending on July 31, 1962.

Inter-Agency Radiation Network
Today, the RECA Program is at the center of a broad inter-agency network that comprises the comprehensive federal radiation compensation system.  The Department of Labor processes claims filed under a compensation program created by the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 7384 et seq. (2006). This program pays uranium workers (or their eligible survivors) who were approved for compensation under Section 5 of RECA an additional $50,000 and future medical benefits related to the condition for which they were approved for compensation under RECA.  In addition to the $50,000 compensation noted above, RECA Section 5 claimants may be entitled to compensation and benefits pursuant to Part E of EEOICPA.  For more information, please review the Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs website at www.dol.gov/esa/regs/compliance/owcp/eeoicp. The RECA Program works closely with DOL to coordinate this additional compensation.

The RECA Program also relies on cooperation from the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Energy, and Defense to determine the eligibility and compensation available to onsite participant claimants under RECA.  Finally, the Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program (RESEP), administered by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources Services Administration, provides grants for education, prevention, and early detection of radiogenic cancers and diseases.  RESEP has awarded grants to seven clinics in Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Washington and New Mexico.  In addition to its outreach and educational programs, the RESEP clinics provide medical screening for specified compensable diseases under RECA, conduct follow-up services, make referrals to medical specialists, and assist with RECA and EEOICPA claims processing by providing necessary medical documentation.

RECA Documents & Forms

RECA Awards to Date

RECA Claimant Categories Summary

Download or Request RECA Claim Forms

Request a RECA claim form to be mailed to you. Please allow 2-4 weeks for delivery.

Download a RECA claim form:

Select the form you would like to download from the choices below.
Wait for the form to fully download before attempting to print. The files are relatively large, so they may take a few moments to download.
Once the form has fully downloaded, it may be printed and filled out. Forms submitted for approval must have an original signature.

RECA claim forms:

Onsite Participant Claim Form
Downwinder Claim Form
Uranium Mine Employee Claim Form
Ore Transporter Claim Form
Uranium Mill Employee Claim Form

Return of Documents
The RECA Program reviews and returns certified or original life records and other precious documents submitted along with RECA claims. Although the program makes an effort to return documents in a timely manner, there is a significant backlog. If you would like to expedite the return of your records, please contact Vera Burnett-Powell at 202-616-4336 or Vera.Burnett-Powell@usdoj.gov with your name, claim number and a current address.

RECA Updates

Onsite Participant Inquiries
Since 2012, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program has processed an increased number of claims from individuals filing under the Onsite Participant provisions of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. Many of those claims were filed by individuals serving in Japan after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; other claims were filed by World War II veterans stationed in the Pacific Theater.  Notably, the Act’s coverage is limited to the atmospheric nuclear testing program conducted by the United States that followed the war.  Also, the Act only provides compensation for an individual who has contracted a “covered” cancer following their exposure to radiation.
For a full description of the claim categories and requirements for compensation under the Act, please see the RECA Claimant Categories Summary tab above.  Claim forms are also available at the links provided.

It is helpful if specific information can be provided regarding the test site location, assignment of duties, and a description of duties for the service member.  This would include a DD-214 or other relevant service report.

Because of the significant number of calls to our toll free line, you may have to leave a message. We will return every call we receive and the Program appreciates your interest in this unique statute.  Please feel free to call this line at 1-800-729-7327. If a RECA staff member is not immediately available, you will be directed to a voice mailbox.  Your telephone call will be returned as soon as possible.  

You may also leave an e-mail message at the following email address: civil.reca@usdoj.gov

Expenses and Costs under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.
In light of the Federal Circuit Court decision in Hackwell v. United States, 491 F.3d 1229 (10th Cir. 2007), the Justice Department no longer enforces the regulation concerning attorney fees whereby attorneys are prohibited from receiving reimbursement for expenses and costs in addition to the statutory fee limits, pursuant to 28 C.F.R.  § 79.74(b). Accordingly, attorneys who represent clients under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act may receive reimbursement for expenses and costs related to the claim, in addition to the statutory attorney fee.  On October 23, 2008, the Department published a Notice in the Federal Register (73 F.R. 63196) regarding its regulation concerning attorney's fees and costs.


Policy Guidance Regarding the Combination of Periods of Employment for Miners, Millers, and Ore Transporters.
It has been the Department's practice to permit claimants to combine periods of employment as miners, millers, and ore transporters to meet the statutory one-year duration of employment requirement. For all three categories of uranium workers (mining, milling, and ore transporting), the Act specifies six common diseases: primary cancer of the lung, fibrosis of the lung, pulmonary fibrosis, cor pulmonale related to fibrosis of the lung, silicosis, and pneumoconiosis. Therefore, in cases involving these six illnesses, the Act’s exposure criteria can be satisfied by combining periods of employment that include mining, milling, and ore transporting. For millers and ore transporters (but not miners), the Act specifies two additional compensable diseases: primary renal cancer and chronic renal disease including nephritis and kidney tubal tissue injury. In cases involving these two illnesses, the Act’s exposure criteria can be satisfied by combining periods of employment that include only milling and ore transporting. 

Contact the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program

Contact the RECA Program by telephone

Telephone: 1-800-729-RECP (1-800-729-7327)

Contact the RECA Program by U.S. Postal Service

U.S. Department of Justice
Radiation Exposure Compensation Program
P.O. Box 146
Ben Franklin Station
Washington, DC 20044-0146

Contact RECA by e-mail

Civil.RECA@usdoj.gov