Between 1945 and 1962, the United States detonated approximately two hundred nuclear devices at test sites in Nevada and in the South Pacific. It is estimated that approximately 400,000 military personnel and civilian employees were exposed to radiation during these test programs.
The Radiation-Exposed Veterans Compensation Act of 1988 (REVCA) was enacted to provide a presumption of service connection for disability compensation to American veterans who developed certain cancers following exposure during service to ionizing radiation generated by the detonation of atomic explosives during World War II and the subsequent occupation of Japan.
As of July 1994, approximately 14,696 out of 16,228, or 90.56%, of atomic veterans’ claims had been denied. As of October 2004, approximately 16,400 out of 18,275, or 88.6%, of atomic veterans’ disability claims had been denied.
Overview of the
Radiation-Exposed Veterans Compensation Act (REVCA)
The Radiation-Exposed Veterans Compensation Act of 1988 (REVCA) (H.R. 1811, Pub. L. 101-321, 102 Stat. 485 [OR] Pub. L. 100-322, 102 Stat. 534), codified at 38 C.F.R. § 3.309(d) (Disease subject to presumptive service connection – Diseases specific to radiation-exposed veterans) (May 1, 1988 [OR] May 20, 1988) and codified as amended at 38 U.S.C. § 1112(c) (Wartime Disability Compensation – Presumptions relating to certain diseases and disabilities) was passed in response to veterans’ complaints about the costs and difficulty involved in dose reconstructions under the Veterans Dioxin and Radiation Exposure Compensation Standards Act of 1984 (VDRECSA). Like VDRECSA, REVCA is administered by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Under VDRECSA, the VA was required to establish criteria and standards for veteran claimants under the normal case-by-case process for administration of service-connected claims. VDRECSA applies to any radiation exposure of any veteran in the course of military service. Under REVCA, no dose reconstruction is required, and the claimant does not need to prove a direct causal connection between the disease and the exposure; however, REVCA’s application is limited to a defined class of “radiation-exposed veterans” who have certain listed radiogenic conditions for which REVCA provides a presumptive connection to exposure to ionizing radiation. REVCA essentially shifts the burden of proving direct service connection and gives veterans the benefit of the doubt on qualifying claims. See 38 U.S.C. § 5107(b). Under REVCA, VA provides disability benefits (38 U.S.C. §§ 1112(c)(1), 1114, 1115) and free medical care (38 U.S.C. § 1710(a)(1)(A)) if the veteran claimant shows exposure to radiation under certain circumstances and contraction of a listed radiogenic disease within a certain latency period; i.e.:
1. Participation, either while serving on active duty, or while a member of a reserve component of the Armed Forces during a period of active duty for training of inactive duty training, in a “radiation-risk activity”; i.e.: (38 C.F.R. § 3.309(d)(3)); i.e.,
- Onsite participation in a test involving the atmospheric detonation of a nuclear device [approximately 210,000 participants (i.e., 202,000 service members and 8,000 civilians/contractors)]; i.e.: (1) During the official “operational period” (see 38 C.F.R. § 3.309(d)(3)(v)) of an atmospheric nuclear test, presence at the test site, or performance of official military duties in connection with ships, aircraft, or other equipment used in direct support of the nuclear test; (2) During the six-month period following the official “operational period” (see 38 C.F.R. § 3.309(d)(3)(v)) of an atmospheric nuclear test, presence at the test site or other test staging area to perform official military duties in connection with completion of projects related to the nuclear test, including decontamination of equipment used during the nuclear test; (3) Service as a member of the garrison or maintenance forces on Enewetak between June 21, 1951 and July 1, 1952, Aug. 7, 1956 and Aug. 7, 1957, or Nov. 1, 1958 and Apr. 30, 1959; (4) Assignment to official military duties at Naval Shipyards involving the decontamination of ships that participated in Operation Crossroads;
- Occupation of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, Japan (see 38 C.F.R. § 3.309(d)(3)(vi)), by United States forces during the period between Aug. 6, 1945 and July 1, 1946 [approximately 195,000 participants];
- Internment as a prisoner of war in Japan (or service on active duty in Japan immediately following such internment) (see 38 C.F.R. § 3.309(d)(3)(vii)) during World War II which resulted in an opportunity for exposure to ionizing radiation comparable to that of the United States occupation forces in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, Japan, during the period between Aug. 6, 1945 and July 1, 1946;
- Service including presence, as part of official military duties, for at least 250 days before Feb. 1, 1992 on the grounds of a gaseous diffusion plant in Paducah, KY, Portsmouth, OH, or Oak Ridge, TN Area K-25, if during such service the veteran was monitored with dosimetry badges for each of the 250 days of service, or served for each of the 250 days of service in a position that had exposures comparable to a job that is or was monitored through the use of dosimetry badges;
- Service on Amchitka Island, Alaska before Jan. 1, 1974, if, during such service, the veteran was exposed to ionizing radiation in the performance of duty related to the Long Shot, Milrow, or Cannikin underground nuclear tests;
- Service in a capacity which, if performed as a DOE employee, would qualify the individual for inclusion as a member of the Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA)
2. Thereafter developed one of 21 listed specified radiogenic diseases (38 C.F.R. § 3.309(d)(2)) (38 U.S.C. § 1112(c)(2); 38 C.F.R. § 3.311b(b)(2)); i.e.,
- Leukemia (other than chronic lymphocytic leukemia)
- Primary liver cancer (except if cirrhosis or hepatitis B is indicated)
- Multiple myeloma
- Lymphomas (except Hodgkin’s disease)
- Bronchiolo-alveolar carcinoma
- Cancer of the: Thyroid, Breast, Pharynx, Esophagus, Stomach, Small intestine, Pancreas, Gall bladder, Bile ducts, Salivary gland, Urinary tract (kidneys, renal pelves, ureters, urinary bladder, urethra), Bone, Brain, Colon, Lung, Ovary.
- Ovarian Cancer (1993)
- Parathyroid Adenoma (1993)
- Posterior subcapsular cataracts (1988)
- Non-malignant thyroid nodular disease (1988)
3. The disease must also have manifested itself within a specified period of time; i.e., within 40 years after the veteran last participated in the military radiation-related activity, or, for leukemia, within 30 years after such participation. For veterans of types A or B above, therefore, the period for manifestation of the disease expired between 1975 and 1976 (or between 1985 and 1986 for leukemia).
Disability compensation rates depend upon the degree of disability and follow the payment schedule applicable to all veterans. Disability ratings are in increments of 10%. In addition to disability compensation, VA provides health care for radiation exposure-related illness, and maintains a registry program for veterans exposed to ionizing radiation. Veterans on the Registry are provided a complete physical examination. Veterans who do not qualify under the above criteria for compensation under REVCA require a case-by-case analysis of their claim by the VA under the general process for service-connected ailments under VDRECSA.
How do I file a REVCA Claim?
Recently, we have had several people contact our office looking for information about how to file a claim under the Radiation Exposed Veterans Compensation Act. We have contacted the Veterans Administration in order to better understand the process for filing a claim. It is our understanding that there is not a specific REVCA claim form available for you to fill out. Rather, the best way to file a claim is to call the Veterans Administration Radiation Help Line at (800) 827-1000. From there, a representative will take your claim over the phone and mail you a package of documents for filing the claim.
Veterans who seek such payment and health-care must file a claim with the VA alleging that they have an ailment and that it is service-connected. The VA will then assess the claim by examining the individual and his or her medical and military record.
In order to get the necessary military records for filing a claim under REVCA, RECA, or the EEOICPA, you can request files from the U.S. Department of Energy by writing to the following address or contacting them by telephone:
U.S. Department of Energy
Attn: Dosimetry Research Project, M/S CF401
P.O. Box 98521
Las Vegas, NV 89193-8521
Phone: (702) 295-3521
Fax: (702) 295-1624
When you write and/or call the above number, request the “Radiation Exposure History” and The “Privacy Act Form NV-192.” After you receive the forms, fill them out and return them to Bechtel Nevada. In addition, be sure to request all the information they have listed about you, especially the Form For Recording Film Badge Issue And Processing Results, as well as the Form For Recording Film Badge Issue And Processing Results–Equipment. Make sure to tell them which atomic test you were in, your military unit or organization and the date you were exposed to radiation.
Please let us know if you have questions or comments about this program.