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Military Veterans and Radiation Exposure

Radiation exposure is divided into two types: non-ionizing radiation exposure from such things as microwaves and radio waves and ionizing radiation exposure from such things as x-rays and nuclear material. When the military was developing the atomic bomb at Hanford in Washington State they were unaware of the full risks associated with ionizing radiation and many soldiers and civilians were exposed to unsafe levels of radiation poisoning. Even today a full understanding of the negative health effects of ionizing radiation is not fully understood. However, doctors increasingly believe that even small amounts of exposure to ionizing radiation can be harmful to your health and have curtailed many of the routine diagnostic x-rays they give to their patients.

The military in this instance is ahead of civilian medicine and has taken a very proactive attitude towards helping soldiers who have been exposed to ionizing radiation in the line of duty. This includes "Atomic Veterans" as well as other military personnel who have suffered from radiation exposure.

Any disease or death related to radiation exposure while in the military will make a Veteran eligible for disability compensation, health care benefits and survivor’s benefits for the family of a deceased soldier who has died from an illness linked to radiation exposure.

Any veteran or soldier who has participated in a radiation-risk activity and who develops any of the illnesses commonly associated with ionizing radiation exposure will be eligible to receive care and benefits. The military presumes that the disease is linked to the radiation exposure and the Veteran does not have to prove a connection between the disease and the exposure to radiation.

Radiation risk activities include:

  • "Atomic Veterans" exposed to radiation in activities (including nuclear development and tests) related to the development and deployment of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
  • Prisoners of War in Japan during World War II
  • Any soldier who participated in nuclear tests conducted between 1945 and 1962
  • Any Veteran who participated in underground testing at Amchitka Island, Alaska before 1974
  • Any Veteran at one of the nuclear plants located in Paducah, Kentucky, in Portsmouth, Ohio or at K25 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee for more than 250 days before 2/1/1992.
  • Military Occupational Exposure to radiation by servicemen who work with nuclear materials in any capacity. These soldiers are routinely tested.
  • Depleted uranium exposure from such things as depleted uranium (DU) bullets
  • Nasopharyngeal (NP, nose and throat) Radiation Treatments

Radiation exposure related diseases recognized by the military include:

  • All types of cancer
  • Brain and central nervous system tumors
  • Non-malignant thyroid disease
  • Parathyroid adenoma
  • Posterior sub-capsular cataracts

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is not associated with radiation exposure but if you are diagnosed with ALS and served longer than 90 days, the military assumes that your ALS is linked to your service and you will be entitled to benefits.

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