Thousands of U.S. military veterans claiming illnesses from radiation exposure have been denied federal benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Despite the PACT Act’s implementation last year, which expanded benefits to veterans exposed to toxic substances, the VA approved only 570 of the 4,100 processed radiation-related claims. Many veterans are finding it challenging to prove their radiation exposure due to unreliable equipment or record-keeping. As the oldest atomic veterans approach 101 years of age, advocates express urgency, saying, “Time is not on their side.”
- The PACT Act, signed last year, expanded benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances. Over 8,000 individuals who participated in the cleanup of radioactive sites became eligible for monthly disability payments.
- The VA has rejected 86% of claims, granting benefits to only 570 of the 4,100 processed radiation-related claims from August 10, 2022, to August 10, 2023.
- Many veterans face difficulty proving their radiation exposure, as equipment to measure radiation was often faulty or unavailable. Veterans must submit medical and service records indicating participation in radiation-risk assignments.
- Representative Dina Titus introduced a bill to alleviate the burden of proof for radiation exposure, citing that it’s “virtually impossible” to prove using radiation dose estimates.
- The aging population of atomic veterans is dwindling, with the youngest now 60 years old. The National Association of Atomic Veterans reports that most survivors have cancer or other radiation-related illnesses.