News Release
April 12, 2000

Nuclear Exposure Compensation Plan Ignores Atomic Veterans


Contact: David E. Autry
(202) 554-3501

Nuclear Exposure Compensation Plan Ignores Atomic Veterans

WASHINGTON -- The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is outraged and appalled that veterans exposed to ionizing radiation are being ignored by the federal government which recently announced plans to offer compensation to thousands of contract workers for illnesses resulting from exposure to toxic and radioactive substances.

The DAV has urged Congress to enact legislation to make it easier for veterans exposed to atomic radiation in the service to receive disability benefits and much-needed health care. Only about 500 claims have been approved by the VA out of more than 18,000 claims filed based on exposure to ionizing radiation.

The Clinton Administration plan announced April 12 would provide compensation for illnesses connected to radioactive exposures to contract workers employed at nuclear weapons facilities over the past 50 years. The new compensation plan is modeled after existing compensation programs for federal workers and gives contract workers the right to claim lost wages and medical and rehabilitation costs for illnesses related to exposure.

The DAV said the federal government is clearly treating veterans exposed to ionizing radiation by a different and inequitable standard. Thousands of veterans have been sickened and disabled as a result of exposure to ionizing radiation, but they are denied compensation by a web of bureaucracy that effectively eliminates any chance of restoring their lives.

The Administrations plan is another example of how veterans are callously and inequitably treated by the federal government.

Veterans exposed to ionizing radiation suffer debilitating illnesses and disabilities but are treated as second-class citizens by the federal government, said DAV National Commander Michael E. Dobmeier. These veterans deserve no less than equal treatment. It is time for Congress and the Administration to reduce the bureaucracy and time-consuming claims process for these veterans so they may receive just and adequate compensation for their disabilities.

The Disabled American Veterans, which represents 2.3 million disabled veterans, is a non-profit organization founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932. It is dedicated to one, single purpose: building better lives for our nations disabled veterans and their families.