NBC Action News investigator Russ Ptacek is doing the Lord's work. It takes saintly patience to untangle the federal tapestry of bureaucratic red tape that is the Bannister Federal
Ptacek continues to uncover shady details regarding a coverup at Bannister, which houses offices for the GSA as well as the Honeywell-operated factory for making parts for nuclear weapons for the National Nuclear Security Administration. Tonight's report on NBC's 10 p.m. news focuses on two former Kansas City Plant workers who became ill with sarcoidosis, a rare respiratory illness linked to beryllium, a metal used in weapons manufacturing. Sarcoidosis can be fatal, causing the lungs to gradually fail to absorb oxygen.
The U.S. Department of Labor offers monetary compensation to sick employees who worked for the U.S. nuclear-arsenal program. The program has paid $28 million in compensation claims to workers in Kansas City who suffer from illnesses such as chronic berylliosis. But as recently as 2001, the DOL was turning down the claims filed by sarcoidosis sufferers.
Ed Bell, who worked in food service at the Kansas City Plant, suffers from the disease and asked Ptacek to look into his rejected claim with the DOL. Through extensive records requests, Ptacek uncovered a DOL document from 2008 detailing a change in the compensation policy that granted sarcoidosis sufferers like Bell the same benefits that a worker suffering from berylliosis would receive.
The problem: Word of the policy change didn't get out to those who needed to hear it most. No one bothered to contact people, such as Bell, whose claims were previously denied. And the compensation is hefty: $150,000 and free health care, paid for by the government, for life. It's not the same as being healthy, but it helps.
Bell and one other KCP worker -- who prefers not to be named -- applied to have their claims reviewed after Ptacek informed them of the DOL change in policy. Now, they both have had their denials reversed and have received $150,000 apiece.
The General Service Administration's local leaders have previously denied having any knowledge about contamination at the complex. There is still no compensation available to sick GSA employees, some who spent years toiling just one wall away from harmful chemicals at the Kansas City Plant. With cases of government-recognized illnesses mounting, and ongoing investigations by the Centers for Disease Control and the EPA uncovering more data, this story isn't going away anytime soon.
This blog was altered for corrections at 5:24 p.m.