The Story Of Our Atomic Veterans

1054 nuclear tests were conducted from July 16, 1945, to September 23, 1992. 35 of these nuclear tests were conducted during Operaton Hardtack which occurred from April 28 to August 18 in 1958. These blasts were conducted on islands in the Pacific: Enewetak Atoll, Bikini Atoll, Johnston Island, and Christmas Island.

The purpose of these tests was threefold:

One: to investigate the development of new types of nuclear weapons;

Two: to examine how underwater explosions affected material, especially Navy ships, and was performed by the DOD; and

Three: to analyze high-altitude nuclear tests in order to refine the detection of high-altitude nuclear tests and investigate defensive practices for combatting ballistic missiles.

However, during that period, hundreds of thousands of civilian and military personnel were exposed to radiation emitted during these tests. The military personnel participating in these tests are now called Atomic Veterans.

In addressing compensation to Atomic Veterans, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) of 1990, more than $1.38 billion in compensation had been approved by Congress. The money went to people who took part in the tests, notably at the Nevada Test Site, and to others exposed to the radiation. The money was awarded to

• Uranium miners, millers, and ore transporters – $100,000;
•“Onsite participants” at atmospheric nuclear weapons tests – $75,000; and
•individuals who lived downwind of the Nevada Test Site (“downwinders”) – $50,000.

But RECA did not include compensation to those who were radiated in Operation Hardtack.

Here is more specific information about Downwinders.

The compensation of $50,000 is to be given to those Atomic Veterans who have contracted internal cancers (or leukemia) and lived in specific counties of Arizona, Nevada, or Utah for “at least two years between January 21, 1951, and October 31, 1958 or during the entire month of July 1962.” The counties wherein veterans lived in those states are listed on their website.

But Congress did finally pass legislation to provide money to Atomic Veterans who were involved with Operation Hardtack as well as nuclear tests in the south Atlantic and Amchitka Island, Alaska prior to January 7, 1974. According to the National Cancer Benefits Center, Congress has authorized $75,000 (tax-free) for those who contracted any of about twenty cancers that are listed on their homepage. You can login to their site to determine if you are qualified. They claim their “success ratio is better than 90%.”

Here is more good news for Atomic Veterans: they can also apply for disability with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA.) Not only that, their wives, children, and grandchildren can apply in lieu of their deceased relative.

Kirk Gladwin has added more important information about the VA: one, if the VA says no, try again. If it is clear to you that the VA has finally refused your disability, call him at 800.414.4328. He will assist you in getting compensation from the VA that you deserve.

As a reminder, the cancers considered to be qualified to receive compensation for exposure to radiation are all internal but includes leukemia.

Please distribute to all whom you feel may be an Atomic Veteran.

Good luck to you all.