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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.

Can I get disability benefits from VA?

You may be able to get disability benefits if you didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge and you meet the requirements listed below.

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)

See 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
  • Served in the postwar occupation of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, or
  • Were a prisoner of war (POW) in Japan, or
  • 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
  • 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 the below locations and capacities. You were:

  • Part of underground nuclear weapons testing at Amchitka Island, Alaska, or
  • Assigned to a gaseous diffusion plant at Paducah, Kentucky, or
  • Assigned to a gaseous diffusion plant at Portsmouth, Ohio, or
  • 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 the evidence (supporting documents) listed below:

  • 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.