Patriots serving the community

Tim Lerew of Cold War Patriots explains benefits to former nuclear and uranium workers at a Town Hall at the Scioto County Welcome Center in Portsmouth Tuesday morning.

During the decades of the Cold War, there were many people who were exposed to dangerous chemicals and later became ill with different types of cancer. Some of those people worked at the Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, and that has brought about occasional visits to the community by the Cold War Patriots.

Cold War Patriots is a community of former nuclear and uranium workers who worked in plants during the Manhattan Project through the Cold War to the present day by building the nation’s nuclear stockpile. CWP connects Cold War Patriots with the resources they need to navigate the complex Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) and Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) government programs. There is no cost to become a member.

On Tuesday, a meeting was held at the Scioto County Welcome Center and a large crowd of people received information about the programs and the benefits to which they are entitled.

“What we have found even though we’ve been serving this community and workers in southern Ohio for more than 10 years from our local office right of highway (U.S.) 23, is today, there are still people that attend the meeting that don’t know they have a valid claim, or don’t know how to get the full measure of the benefit they have coming to them under the law for their medical services,” Tim Lerew of Cold War Patriots said. “I’m just excited to be bale to share that information.”

A slide presentation broke down the history of the benefits, explaining the legislation that has been passed, both early in the program and in recent years.

“Today is much of a how-to session and it’s a real cross-section of folks — everything from a survivor claim to someone who is sick and looking for help — someone who would benefit from the compensation that is offered through this act of Congress, designed to address a very real need here in the community and across the country,” Lerew said.

One of the highlights of the program was a presentation made by Lerew to an area citizen.

“Jimmy Scott worked up at the A-Plant for a couple of decades and he passed away in February,” Lerew said. “Peggy Scott, his widow contacted me the day he passed just as a courtesy. I felt very honored.”

Lerew said he was in a meeting with government officials in Washington when he received word of Scott’s passing. He said those officials got together and gave him a flag that was flown over the nation’s capitol that day. Lerew presented the flag to Peggy Scott to the applause of those present at the meeting.

In this area, one of the people most closely associated with the Cold War Patriots is Attorney Franklin T. Gerlach, who spoke to those assembled about navigating their way through the claims process. One of those agencies he deals with on a daily basis is NIOSH — The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

“I battle with them constantly,” Gerlach said. “I’ve been able to make some changes in the way they do things — they don’t like to make change — it may take several years, but do keep battling and if you’re right, they’ve got to change.”

Gerlach said persistence is essential to get through the claims process. He said that is why having an advocate such as an attorney who deals with the process on a regular basis is sometimes necessary. Gerlach said sometimes people get turned down on their claim, but they have to not give up, but continue to fight for their benefits.

Gerlach employee Joyce Lewis said, to date, the Gerlach law firm has assisted approximately 1,100 people with claims.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewisPDT.