Surge in applications for the certification of A-bomb diseases creates screening backlog

by Hiromi Morita, Staff Writer

In the wake of changes to the certification system involving A-bomb diseases, which have relaxed the criteria for claimants, the city of Hiroshima has received a surge of applications from A-bomb survivors. The city, with the largest number of hibakusha in Japan, announced on July 22 that approximately 2,500 applications that have been submitted in Hiroshima now await screening by the central government. Behind this surge, in part, lies a series of winning rulings for the plaintiffs of a class action lawsuit filed nationwide. As A-bomb survivors are aging, a swift screening process is being demanded.

The number of hibakusha registered in Hiroshima accounts for 31 percent of all survivors in Japan. The city reports that last year’s applications for certification totaled roughly 30 a month while the number since January of this year has topped 100 per month. In fact, in April, when the state introduced the new criteria in which the conditions for certification were relaxed, the number spiked to 618 cases.

This surge in the number of applications is believed to reflect higher expectations for certification on the part of the applicants. In just the past three months, through the end of June, the number had already reached 1,651, a figure double the total of 735 applications received through the whole of 2007.

Due to this sudden influx of applications, the state’s screening process has been unable to keep pace. A total of 2,523 applications submitted to the city of Hiroshima, including cases filed before the introduction of the new certification criteria, still await screening. Akimi Nakamura, director of the Qualification Division of the Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Department of Hiroshima city office, forecasts, “As the number of applications tends to increase in August, this trend is going to continue for the time being.” The city government has requested that state authorities speed up the screening process.

The class action lawsuit that was filed nationwide triggered the revision of the criteria for the certification system involving A-bomb diseases. The lawsuit began in 2003, sponsored by the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations. After the government lost a succession of rulings, then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe initiated the revision process in August 2007. A total of 584 cases nationwide have been screened under the new criteria since April this year. Among them, 513 cases have been certified as A-bomb diseases.

(Originally published on July 23, 2008)

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