Cold War Veterans Health Issues
If you served during the Cold War era—anytime between 1945 and 1991—you may be at risk of certain health conditions. Learn about these conditions and what to do next to take care of your health.
What health risks should I know about related to service during the Cold War era?
You may be at risk of illnesses or injuries caused by contact with:
- Radiation: A type of radiation exposure from atmospheric and underground nuclear weapons tests
- Mustard gas: An odorless poisonous gas used in military tests in the 1940s
- Herbicides: Agent Orange and other herbicides used in Vietnam and tested or stored in other locations
- Occupational (job-related) hazards: Chemicals, paints, radiation, and other hazards you may have come in contact with through your military job
- Noise: Harmful sounds from guns, explosives, rockets, heavy weapons, jets and aircraft, and machinery that can cause or contribute to hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
You may also be at risk of illnesses caused by contact with hazards found in certain projects and locations, such as:
- Projects 112 or Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD): Military tests of chemical and biological warfare materials that took place in the 1960s to early 1970s
- The Atsugi Waste Incinerator: Combustion waste disposal that burned industrial and medical waste
- The Edgewood/Aberdeen Experiments: Classified medical studies of low-dose chemical agents conducted from 1955 to 1975
- Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River: Sites of contaminated drinking water from August 1953 through December 1987
- Fort McClellan: Site of possible exposure to low levels of radioactive compounds and chemical warfare agents (mustard gas and nerve agents) and airborne polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
What should I do now?
Take these steps to make sure you’re taking care of your health:
Talk to your primary health care provider or your local VA environmental health coordinator about any health concerns related to your military service. Find your local VA environmental health coordinator.
Ask your local VA environmental health coordinator about getting a free Ionizing Radiation Registry health exam. Learn more about the Ionizing Radiation Registry health exam.
Find out if you can get disability compensation (monthly payments) and other benefits if you have an illness or injury caused—or made worse—by your active-duty service. See if you qualify for disability benefits due to contact with hazardous materials.