NORTH AUGUSTA — Local resident Robert Lathrop worked at the Savannah River Site for 46 years and developed colon cancer after retiring in 1999. It is a condition that the Department of Labor linked to his work at the Site.


Now, Lathrop is receiving medical benefits due to the ailment after filing claims, and he attended one of Wednesday’s town hall meetings hosted by the Labor Department to learn about any updates.


“I’m a participant in the program and have had medical problems that were diagnosed and approved,” said Lathrop.


He said he didn’t necessarily learn anything new about the medical benefits he’s eligible to receive, but he appreciates the government for learning about related conditions and working to offer benefits for former workers.


“Thanks to the Department of Labor, the surgeon, doctors, and through faith in God, I got through it and I’m here to tell about it,” he said.


Wednesday’s two meetings were attended by more than 200 residents, many looking to file claims for the first time. However, a large percentage included retirees like Lathrop who are already receiving benefits and who were looking to follow up on other claims or just learn more about the program.


Edsel Jumper, who retired from the Site about 20 years ago, said he figured it would be worth his time to attend the meeting to learn more about the possible benefits.


“I’ve already got one claim filed, and I’m looking to file another,” he said.


In addition to the town hall meetings, officials from the local resource center were present to assist individuals with filing new claims and to provide clients with updates on existing claims.


Retirees are eligible to receive benefits through the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. The act was created to assist individuals who became ill as a result of working in the nuclear weapons industry.


For more information about the Act, visit www.dol.gov/compliance/laws/comp-energy.htm. To contact the local resource center, call 803-279-2728.


Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard.