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Former Missouri weapons plant workers suffer work-related illness

During times of tension between nations, production of weapon stockpiles increases. In many communities, new production plants meant increased employment opportunities and an economic boom. Unfortunately, workers of one Missouri plant discovered that they faced a higher probability of suffering a work-related illness.

The Kansas City Plant has been home to several different companies since its beginnings in the 1940s. At one time, it housed companies engaged in producing plane parts for the military. Over time, it was expanded and came under the control of the Department of Energy, (DOE), the National Nuclear Security Administration and the General Services Administration, (GSA), which contracted for production of electrical parts to be used in nuclear weapons. The plant quickly became one of the major employment providers, but employees were not informed about the dangers of exposure to toxic materials.

Former workers share stories of co-workers who became sick and died at an early age. Many workers were diagnosed with lung diseases and cancers. In 2001, the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program was instituted to provide benefits to energy workers who were sickened as a result of toxic exposure on the job. According to recent figures, the program has paid more than $16.4 billion in claims to affected workers or their survivors. 

Many critics have complained that the process for applying for benefits is exceedingly difficult. After several investigations, the approval rate for claims improved significantly, though the rate for approved claims at the Missouri plant have remained at approximately 16%. Officials have denied that the Kansas City plant is considered a "dirty" facility. 

One widow recently talked about her husband's death at the age of 50 from an aggressive brain cancer. He was employed at the facility for 27 years. Any employee who suffers a work-related illness or injury is entitled to seek the assistance of an attorney who can walk the victim successfully through the workers' compensation claims process.

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