PARS President Celestial urges House action this year on radiation survivors bill

PARS President Robert Celestial (PNC file photo)

During a video conference with congressional staffers last Friday the President of the Pacific Association of Radiation Survivors (PARS), Robert Celestial, urged action this year in the U.S. House on a radiation survivors bill.

Numerous groups were invited to present testimonies and ask questions in reference to the RECA bill pending in the House of Representatives, H.R. 3783.

During the conference call Celestial pointed out that the Senate has already held a hearing on Senate Bill 947 and he expressed the hope that the House would soon consider H.R. 3783 which proposes the inclusion of Downwinders and Uranium Miners in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) amendments of (2019-2020).

The proposed RECA amendments will include new Downwinder States such as Idaho, New Mexico, Guam, and others. Since there is a 2022 Sunset provision for the current RECA program, there is a provision in H.R. 3783 that will extend the program another 23 years.

Downwinders of Guam are those who were on Guam from 1946 to 1962 and who have been diagnosed with one of the cancers associated with radiation exposure.

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Program will provide medical benefits and $150,000 for eligible Downwinders.

Congressman Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico hosted the video conference. Congressional staffers taking part were Congressman Lujan’s Chief of Staff Graham Mason, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Staffers, Dr. Kristen Dillion Health Policy Fellow and Michael Teklenburg Counsel/Policy Advisor.

Celestial said that Dr. Dillon agreed to move forward with Congressman Lujan’s office and request a hearing next week to the House Judiciary Committee.

“I want to thank all the Members of PARS Guam for their support and prayers for many years in our pursuit of justice for downwind exposure to radiation on Guam from 1946 to 1962,” said Celestial in a release. “I pray our resilience and persistence in this effort will bring justice and improved healthcare for the people of Guam.”

In addition to Celestial of the Pacific Association for Radiation Survivors (Guam), the representatives invited to the Video Conference were Counsel Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, 24th Navajo Nation Counsel; Linda Evers, Post 71 uranium miners; Tona Henderson, Idaho Downwinders; Tina Cordova, New Mexico Downwinders; and Keith Keifer, National Commander for the National Association for Atomic Veterans.

PARS has advocated for inclusion of Guam as a downwind area under RECA based on the sworn affidavit of Lt. Schreiber that the scales measuring radiation levels on Guam during the nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands was “off the charts”.

Information relative to exposure on Guam was classified until the 1990s when Celestial discovered the unclassified documents and pursued the affidavit from Schreiber.

After a Congressionally mandated investigation, the National Academies of Science concluded in 2002 in a published report that Guam should be deemed a downwind area under RECA.