Senate Holds Hearing on Radiation Exposure Compensation Act
Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo on Wednesday joined Mr. Robert Celestial as he testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on the “Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2017” (S. 197). Mr. Celestial spoke to his own experience as an atomic veteran and on behalf of the Pacific Association for Radiation Survivors, which advocates for “downwinders” exposed to radiation from nuclear weapons testing.
Congresswoman Bordallo is a strong advocate for those exposed to radiation during nuclear weapons testing in the western Pacific from 1946 to 1962, as an original cosponsor of the House companion bill (H.R.2049). In a June 26th letter, the Congresswoman urged the Senate Judiciary Committee leadership, U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), to pass the “Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2017” so it may be sent to the Senate floor for a vote. The Congresswoman also emphasized with Chairman Grassley and Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), and Tom Udall (D-NM) the need to recognize Guam’s downwinders and atomic veterans who led radiation cleanup efforts in the western Pacific.
During the hearing, Senator Booker thanked Congresswoman Bordallo and Mr. Celestial for their advocacy on behalf of all Guam’s downwinders and other Pacific Islanders exposed to nuclear radiation. Senator Crapo, the Senate bill’s sponsor, entered the Congresswoman’s letter to committee leadership into the hearing record.
Later in the day, Congresswoman Bordallo led meetings with House Veterans’ Affairs Committee leadership, including Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) and Vice-Ranking Member Mark Takano (D-CA) on the “Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act” (H.R.632), which would fund healthcare expenses for veterans who participated in the cleanup of Enewetak Atoll after nuclear testing during the 1960’s. The Congresswoman also led a meeting with Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY), sponsor of the “Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act” (H.R.632), of which the Congresswoman is an original cosponsor.
Congresswoman Bordallo, along with Mr. Celestial and Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje, urged all her Senate and House colleagues to recognize the sacrifices of Guam’s atomic veterans and downwinders, by bringing all three bills to their respective chamber floors for a vote. If passed, the bills will amend federal law to:
- Increase the compensation individuals exposed to radiation from nuclear weapons testing or site cleanup may receive.
- Expand the eligible affected areas of known radiation exposure to include downwind sites like Guam and nuclear weapons testing cleanup sites in the western Pacific like Enewetak Atoll.
- Provide specific relief for those affected living on Guam during nuclear weapons testing radiation exposure and veterans ordered to clean up contaminated sites.
Congresswoman Bordallo issued the following statement after the Senate hearing:
“I was proud to support my constituent and friend, Robert Celestial, during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. Robert has been a tireless advocate, ensuring downwinders on Guam, from across the Pacific, and our veterans exposed to radiation get the compensation and care they are owed,” said Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo.
“I continue working with my House and Senate colleagues to see these bills passed into law. Congress must not ignore the victims of nuclear testing in the western Pacific any longer. I will not give up on our Guam downwinders and atomic veterans, until they get the recognition they deserve,” said Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo.
Full Text of Congresswoman’s Letter:
June 26, 2018
The Honorable Chuck Grassley
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Dear Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Feinstein,
I write to thank you for holding a hearing on expanding eligibility for the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program. I urge the Committee to ensure that all “downwinders” receive compensation for nuclear radiation exposure, including those Americans on Guam exposed to nuclear testing in the mid-twentieth century. For me, this is an issue of righting a historic wrong and addressing our nation’s troubling past of nuclear testing in the western Pacific Ocean.
The “Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2017” (S. 197) would, finally, recognize those Guam residents suffering from radiation-related illnesses. Many of my constituents, including U.S. military veterans, have dealt with devastating health problems related to radiation exposure for decades, some up until their deaths. As an original cosponsor of the House companion bill (H.R.2049), I strongly support S. 197, and I thank Senator Crapo for his leadership on this issue in the United States Senate.
I continue working with my House colleagues to pass the “Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2017” into law, and I hope that the Judiciary Committee will give all due consideration to Senator Crapo’s bipartisan legislation. Guam residents and others exposed to nuclear testing radiation should not be expected to wait any longer to receive the recognition and compensation they are entitled to, as Americans. In addition to this hearing, I hope that the Judiciary Committee will take up and favorably report S. 197, so that it may be considered by the full Senate.
Thank you again for your leadership in the Committee, and I look forward to working with you on this critical issue.
MADELEINE Z. BORDALLO
Member of Congress
CC: The Honorable Mike Crapo, U.S. Senator