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Ionizing radiation exposure

Find out if you can get disability compensation or benefits for illnesses—including some cancers—believed to be caused by contact with radiation during military service.

Am I eligible for disability benefits from VA?

You may be eligible for disability benefits if you didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge and you meet these requirements.

Both of these must be true:

  • You have an illness that’s on our list of illnesses believed to be caused by radiation or that doctors say may be caused by radiation, and
  • Your illness started within a certain period of time (as shown along with the list of illnesses)

Review the list of radiation-related illnesses

And you must have had contact with ionizing radiation in one of these ways while serving in the military:

  • You were part of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing, or
  • You served in the postwar occupation of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, or
  • You were a prisoner of war (POW) in Japan, or
  • You worked as an x-ray technician, in a reactor plant, or in nuclear medicine or radiography (while on active duty or during active or inactive duty for training in the Reserves), or
  • You did tasks like those of a Department of Energy (DOE) employee that make them a member of the Special Exposure Cohort (See 42 U.S.C. 7384L(14))

You may also qualify for disability benefits if you served in at least one of these locations and capacities:

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

Who’s covered?

Veterans

What kind of disability benefits can I get?

  • Health care
  • Compensation (payments)

How do I get these benefits?

You’ll need to file a claim for disability compensation and provide this evidence (supporting documents):

  • Medical records showing that you’ve been diagnosed with one of the illnesses on our list of those believed to be caused by radiation—or that your doctor states may be caused by radiation exposure, and
  • Service records showing that you were part of one of the radiation risk activities described above

Note: When you file your claim, we’ll ask the military branch that you served with (or the Defense Threat Reduction Agency) to give us a range of how much radiation they think you may have come into contact with. We’ll use the highest level of the range they report to decide on your benefits.

Find out how to file a claim for disability compensation