Veterans and exposure to ionizing radiation

By Treven Pyles

Posted on January 21st, 2021

It is important to make the connection between your disease and exposure to ionizing radiation that occurred in the military as a veteran, as this is the only way you can become eligible for receiving a series of VA benefits such as financial compensation and low-cost or free healthcare.

Containing a high level of energy, ionizing radiation is harmful to humans, as it removes electrons from atoms or molecules and can thereby damage DNA cells. Exposure to ionizing radiation occurs by inhalation, skin contact, and ingestion. Veterans who were exposed to ionizing radiation while on active duty are referred to as Atomic Veterans. Some of the primary sources of ionizing radiation in the military are proximity to radioactive material, the use of calibration and measurement sources, handling and detonation of nuclear weapons, and exposure to depleted uranium as fumes from fires or as shrapnel from explosions. The diseases and health issues exposure to ionizing radiation can lead to brain tumors, central nervous system lymphoma, cancer, thyroid nodular disease, posterior subcapsular cataracts, and parathyroid adenoma.

Which groups of veterans were exposed to ionizing radiation?

It is important to make the connection between your disease and exposure to ionizing radiation that occurred in the military as a veteran, as this is the only way you can become eligible for receiving a series of VA benefits such as financial compensation and low-cost or free healthcare. The majority of exposure to ionizing radiation in the United States military took place between 1945 and 1962. However, exposure to ionizing radiation still represents a serious issue in the military today, as people who are on active duty continue to come in contact with the sources of this toxic agent. At the moment, the following groups of veterans can apply for VA benefits for the diseases and health problems they came to struggle with as a result of exposure to ionizing radiation:

  • veterans who were part of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing
  • veterans who served in the postwar occupation of Hiroshima or Nagasaki
  • veterans who were prisoners of war in Japan
  • veterans who worked as X-ray technicians, in reactor plants, or in nuclear medicine or radiography
  • veterans who were employees of a Department of Energy, which makes veterans from this category members of the Special Exposure Cohort

Furthermore, veterans who served in at least one of the following locations and capacities may also seek financial compensation and healthcare from the VA, as they were also exposed to a considerable level of ionizing radiation. Another essential aspect to keep in mind if you intend to apply for VA compensation or healthcare is that you must not have been discharged from the military dishonorably.

    • veterans who were part of the nuclear weapons testing at Amchitka Island, Alaska
    • veterans who were assigned to a gaseous diffusion plant at Paducah, Kentucky
    • veterans who were assigned to a gaseous diffusion plant at Portsmouth, Ohio
    • veterans who were assigned to a gaseous diffusion plant at Area K-25 at Oak Ridge, Tennessee

It is worthy of note that, in order to qualify for VA benefits, you must have spent at least 250 days before February 1, 1991, in a gaseous diffusion plant while on active duty. Additional circumstances in which veterans may have been exposed to ionizing radiation include:

      • the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan from March 12 to May 11, 2011
      • the U.S. Air Force plutonium clean-up mission in Palomares, Spain
      • exposure to depleted uranium
      • exposure to ionizing radiation from Long Range Navigation (LORAN) stations from 1942 to 2010
      • being on duty at McMurdo Station, Antarctica nuclear power plant from 1964 to 1973

If you are a veteran who developed a disease following exposure to ionizing radiation in the military, we strongly advise you to apply for VA benefits with the help of a specialized attorney, as the process is quite complex and challenging and is very likely to not result in the maximum amount of financial compensation you are truly eligible for if you apply on your own. With over 25 years of experience in providing quality assistance to veterans injured by toxic exposure, our attorneys are ready to help you file a VA claim for compensation, which will also make healthcare and treatment more affordable for you.

What diseases can exposure to ionizing radiation cause in veterans?

While there is a wide range of diseases exposure to ionizing radiation can result in, there are only certain health issues recognized by the VA as the consequence of this occurrence. The following are the malignant diseases that exposure to ionizing radiation can lead to, as well as some of the diagnoses that make veterans eligible for filing a VA claim for disability compensation:

      • bile duct cancer
      • pancreatic cancer
      • bone cancer
      • gall bladder cancer
      • breast cancer
      • liver cancer
      • brain cancer
      • colon cancer
      • esophageal cancer
      • lung cancer
      • pharyngeal cancer
      • ovarian cancer
      • salivary gland cancer
      • thyroid cancer
      • kidney cancer
      • gastrointestinal cancer
      • lymphoma
      • bladder cancer
      • urethral cancer
      • leukemia
      • multiple myeloma

Veterans who suffer from the diseases above do not have to prove the connection between their diagnosis and exposure to ionizing radiation if they apply for disability compensation, as there is already a strong causal relation between this factor and the occurrence of these health problems. The exceptions to these malignant diseases are chronic lymphocytic lymphoma and Hodgkin's disease. However, veterans who have the following diseases will have to present solid evidence of the correlation between their diagnosis and exposure to ionizing radiation if they intend to seek disability compensation:

      • parathyroid adenoma
      • non-malignant thyroid nodular disease
      • posterior subcapsular cataracts
      • tumors of the brain and central nervous system
      • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
      • other cancers

Regardless of your diagnosis, we encourage you to seek the assistance of a specialized attorney if you want to apply for VA benefits such as disability compensation since only they will be able to obtain the maximum sum of money you are eligible for. With the help of their legal experts, they will gather all the necessary evidence and file a VA claim on your behalf so that you can enjoy the largest amount of compensation you deserve for your diagnosis.

Quality legal assistance for veterans injured by exposure to ionizing radiation

With over 25 years of experience in providing legal assistance to victims of toxic exposure, our attorneys are ready to offer you the help you need in applying for VA disability compensation as a veteran injured by ionizing radiation exposure. Although the legal process is very complex and challenging, particularly if your disease does not have a definitive connection to exposure to ionizing radiation, your involvement will be minimal, as you will only have to send your attorney your military and medical records, documents that will be used as evidence to support your VA claim. Furthermore, our legal experts will conduct in-depth research to discover additional evidence for your case. Eventually, you will benefit from the maximum compensation available for your diagnosis if you choose to file your VA claim with the assistance of our resourceful legal team. For more information, do not hesitate to contact our law firm and we will gladly answer your questions.