The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, passed by Congress in 1990 and amended several times since, “provides one-time benefit payments to persons who may have developed cancer or other specified diseases after being exposed to radiation from atomic weapons testing or uranium mining, milling, or transporting,” according to a helpful explainer from the Congressional Research Service.
The Department of Justice’s Civil Division administers the claims process. As of September 2022, the agency has received more than 53,000 claims. It has approved more than more than 39,000 of them, awarding more than $2.5 billion in compensation. More than 13,000 claims have been denied. But very little information is publicly available on claimants’ specific illnesses and/or injuries, counties of exposure, employers, reasons for claim denial, or many other aspects of the information collected. Such information is essential to understanding the enduring effects of radiation on the US population and the functioning of this government program.
Our FOIA request 📄 seeks all database records collected through the program’s five claim forms (excluding personally-identifiable information), as well as case-adjudication records from the Civil Division’s case-tracking system. The latter is referenced in several Government Accountability Office reports, including in a 2007 report on the compensation program’s status:
To provide updated information on the claims adjudication process, we interviewed RECP officials, obtained responses to our written inquiries, and obtained RECA-related case information for fiscal years 1992 through 2007 (as of June 30) from DOJ’s Civil Division’s case histories database. […] We also interviewed officials in the Civil Division’s Office of Management Information (OMI), the office that maintains the database, and [Radiation Exposure Compensation Program], the office that uses information contained in the database, to obtain updated information about the database.
Our request also seeks all relevant database documentation, to aid with the proper interpretation of the records.