FYI Daily

Looking for Vets Exposed to Radiation

Last updated: Nov 15, 2011

Atomic Bomb

Are you caring for a veteran or the wife of a vet? An estimated 195,000 veterans out there -- somewhere -- are eligible for special benefits for having been exposed to radiation during atmospheric nuclear bomb tests between 1945 and 1962, AARP Bulletin reports. If these vets have or had one of 21 different cancers traceable to radiation exposure, they or their widows and children are eligible for a one-time $75,000 payout from the Department of Justice or a monthly disability payment of up to $2,673 from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Finding the men has proven to be a challenge because their average age is 84. But the veterans' survivors are also being sought. A total of 557,000 veterans were exposed to lethal radiation. Only 1,641 claims for the $75,000 have been successfully filed since 1992. That's both because many people don't know of these benefits and because proving claims can be difficult.

Spearheading the search is the National Association of Atomic Veterans (NAAV), under the leadership of R.J. Ritter, a 76-year-old Korean war vet and full-time NAAV volunteer. He was 17 when first exposed to a series of atomic tests as a Navy petty officer. Despite having no effects yet himself, he's motivated by a desire to help his fellow servicemen who have been less fortunate.