While the U.S. stopped testing nuclear weapons above ground in 1962, many Veterans today—known as “Atomic Veterans”—still deal with lingering effects that come with exposure to radiation (like cancer and other adverse health effects). Essentially, Atomic Veterans are troops who were stationed as ground troops or POWs near the detonation sites in Hiroshima and Nagasaki or participants in above ground nuclear tests conducted from 1945 to 1962 in the Pacific Ocean and southwest U.S.
So why are we talking about this now? Because some conditions (mostly cancers) are considered “presumptive conditions” for Atomic Veterans and just establishing that you participated in one of these situations makes an “atomic Veteran” eligible for compensation. For non-presumptive conditions, the key to getting compensation (and treatment, if not otherwise eligible for care) from VA lies in establishing the amount of radiation to which a Veteran was exposed. To that end, if you were involved, there are several resources you should know about.
First, VA is encouraging all Atomic Veterans to check out the new website for the Veterans’ Advisory Board on Dose Reconstruction (VBDR). And second, be aware that VA offers an evaluation, known as the Ionizing Radiation Registry (IRR), free of charge to all eligible “Atomic Veterans”. Veterans do not need to be enrolled in VA health care to be eligible. You can find information on our Radiation page created by the Office of Public Health and environmental hazards.
Jim Benson is a U.S. Air Force Veteran and works for VA’s Office of Public Affairs.