JOHNSTON — The message the Cold War Patriots sent to Savannah River Site retirees was clear: There could be a benefits check out there worth more than $100,000 with any one of their names on it.
The organization held two of its four, local meetings Tuesday at Strom Thurmond High School in Johnston. There, more than 70 SRS retirees gathered to learn if they may be missing out on benefits.
The group included John Pullen, a retiree who spent 24 years working with the Department of Energy at various sites, including SRS.
Pullen was exposed to radiation in his work and said he was seeking general information at Tuesday’s session.
“I’m going to go over to the resource center and find out more about the benefits,” he said. “Problems have been minimal so far; but I do have cataracts in both eyes, so it was worth coming here.”
Outreach Representative Tim Lerew said retirees can file claims for various ailments, including most cancers, anything that has to do with the breathing system and exposures that have caused nervous system disorders.
Lerew said an accepted cancer would offer a payout of $150,000. The money is tax free and could also come with additional benefits if there are impairments associated with the cancer.
“Impairment payouts could range anywhere from zero to $250,000, depending on how impaired a retiree is,” Lerew said. “We get a lot of claims between zero and $125,000. And so many people leave these benefits on the table, so it’s important to ask.”
William Ryans retired from SRS after 42 years and said he has also experienced several ailments that may make him eligible for benefits.
“It’s good information, and it’s giving me something to consider,” Ryans said. “Hopefully, these benefits can help me like they’ve helped a bunch of others.”
Cold War Patriots will be holding two more information sessions on Wednesday at Cail Community Center, located at 320 Millen Road in Sylvania, Georgia. The meetings will be held at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Lerew added that if residents can’t make it to the meeting, they can still apply at www.coldwarpatriots.org. The site will allow residents to stay connected and keep up to date on benefits, he said.
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June 2013. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.