U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Tina Smith (D-MN) announced Wednesday they are reintroducing their bipartisan bill to secure health care benefits for “Atomic Veterans.”
The bill is for vets who were exposed to harmful radiation while cleaning up nuclear testing sites during the late 1970s.
The Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act would allow those veterans who participated in the cleanup of Enewetak Atoll on the Marshall Islands to receive the same health care and benefits given to other service members who were involved in active nuclear tests.
A statement released by the Senators says those who participated in the cleanup between 1977 and 1980 “suffer from high rates of cancers due to their exposure to radiation and nuclear waste but are currently unable to receive the same treatments and service-related disability presumptions that other ‘radiation-exposed veterans’ receive.”
The statement also says that from 1946 to 1958, the military conducted more than 40 nuclear tests in the islands, but the thousands of service members who cleaned up the area were never made eligible to receive health benefits under the Radiation Compensation Exposure Act.
“The courageous service members who were assigned to cleaning the fallout and debris from nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands without protective gear in the 1970s deserve the highest quality medical care,” said Tillis.