(Washington, DC) -- Today, Senator Patty Murray hailed a Congressional agreement to overhaul the compensation program for nuclear weapons workers who have become ill but face long waits for federal compensation. Senator Murray is a co-sponsor of the Senate version of the legislation to fix the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program, which passed in June. The Department of Energy repeatedly failed to process claims and compensate ill workers from sites such as the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state.

Today's agreement will move the program from the Department of Energy to the Department of Labor, which has far more experience expediting claims from workers. The change is included in the FY2005 Department of Defense Authorization Bill awaiting final passage by the House and Senate.

"This is a great day, and a great victory, for workers at Hanford and other nuclear sites around the country who dedicated their lives to improving the defense of our nation while at the same time, without their knowledge, putting their lives at risk. Exposure to harmful materials has left thousands of people sick, but the Energy Department has failed to act with the speed and care necessary to meet our obligation to these workers. Many of these workers are dying. We must compensate them, and do it now.

"We must pay these dedicated patriots back for their service to our nation. Today, we took an important step toward making good on that huge debt," Murray said.