Rep. Gosar Introduces Bill to Seek Justice for "Downwinders" Negatively Impacted by Government Nuclear Testing

Jul 28, 2017

Contact: Faith C. Vander Voort

Faith.VanderVoort@mail.house.gov

7/28/2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) released the following statement after introducing H.R. 3531, the Downwinders Compensation Act, which will ensure partial restitution to victims who now have cancer and other serious medical issues as a result of being exposed to nuclear fallout and radiation during government testing:

“A strong military is absolutely vital to ensuring our national security, but the testing of government weapons should never jeopardize the well-being and health of Americans,” said Congressman Gosar. “Unfortunately for countless bystanders, this was not the protocol in years past. The exposure to cancer-causing carcinogens from atmospheric nuclear tests by the government has inflicted serious health implications, affecting the lives of thousands of Arizonans.

“Since my first term, I have I heard several gut-wrenching stories from individuals who now have cancer or have lost loved ones due to federal government negligence. For Congress to deny these victims the right to even file a claim is intolerable. It’s time for Congress to quit the cowardice and stand up to the injustice.”

“Congressman Gosar’s bill gives the help and recognition that the people of Mohave County who have suffered from the government’s radiation tests have long needed,” said Mohave County District III Supervisor Buster Johnson.

Gary Watson, Mohave County District I Supervisor, said, “Mohave County is pleased and excited to join forces with Congressman Paul Gosar who continues the fight to secure Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments for our residents who were adversely impacted by nuclear weapons testing. As Chairman of the Board, and Supervisor District 1, We appreciate the continuing efforts of Congressman Gosar to expand the eligibility boundaries to ensure justice for Mohave County residents exposed to government radiation testing.”

“I have been working with Congressman Gosar's office, traveling throughout Arizona, Nevada and Utah giving my Downwinder's presentation to City Councils and Board of Commissioners in support of Congressman Gosar's efforts to bring that portion of Mohave County, Arizona and Clark County, Nevada, previously left out of the RECA bill, into compensation,” said Sherri Hanna, Mohave County resident and Downwinders advocate. “Congressman Gosar has worked tirelessly on behalf of all Downwinders. We are truly grateful for his efforts.”

Background:

 From 1945 to 1962 the United States government conducted nearly 200 atmospheric weapons development tests as part of our nation’s Cold War security strategy during an era when other hostile nations were also engaged in nuclear weapons testing and proliferation. These tests exposed thousands of innocent Americans to cancer-causing ionized radiation from nuclear fallout.

When the injuries were discovered, Congress subsequently provided an apology on behalf of the nation and passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990, or RECA, to establish a trust fund for partial restitution to individuals—commonly referred to as “Downwinders”—who have contracted certain cancers and other serious diseases that can be directly attributed to the radiation exposure from the nuclear weapons testing.

While the Act which established RECA was well-intended, there are serious boundary flaws that have prevented otherwise eligible Americans from receiving justice and the compensation to which they are entitled. Americans that reside in counties in close proximity to where the testing occurred are excluded from this program for no logical scientific reason, including people that reside in Mohave County, Arizona and Clark County, Nevada. This bill corrects this injustice and will provide compensation to qualifying individuals not included in the 1990 Act that deserve restitution. New claimants under this act are subject to the same burden of proof as all other claimants currently covered.

In 2014, Congressman Gosar held a field hearing in Kingman, Arizona in regard to the Downwinders of Mohave County, Arizona. At the hearing, Congressman Gosar heard a range of testimony, from expert reviews on the law and medicine to the personal stories of actual Downwinders. Witnesses included a Congressional Research Service (CRS) analyst, Mohave County officials, the Chairwoman of the Hualapai Tribe and several local residents who either developed radiation-induced cancer themselves or have family members who died from radiation-induced cancer.

The four original cosponsors that joined Congressman Gosar in introducing this legislation include: Mark Amodei (NV-02), Trent Franks (AZ-08), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07, Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09).