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Exposure at Enewetak Atoll and the Marshall Islands

VA Disability Benefits for Radiation Exposure at Enewetak Atoll and the Marshall Islands

Veterans subjected to radiation exposure at Enewetak Atoll and the Marshall Islands may be eligible for VA disability benefits.

In the early days of the Cold War, mostly during the 1950s, the United States and other nuclear powers routinely conducted atmospheric tests of weapons like hydrogen bombs. Most U.S. testing occurred in the Marshall Islands, a remote chain in the Central Pacific. America and the other nuclear powers soon signed a limited test ban treaty which prohibited atmospheric testing. By that time, the damage had been done.

Between 1948 and 1958, the DoD conducted over 40 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands, mostly at Enewetak Atoll. No one even thought to survey the environmental damage until the early 1970s. According to some estimates, Enewetak Atoll may be radioactive until at least 2027. Over the decades, there is no telling how many Veterans may have been exposed to nuclear waste and fallout.

Establishing a Claim for Benefits

In general, most VA disability claims contain two basic elements. The Veteran must have a physical, mental, or other recognized disability which is service-related. Typically, that second element is the most difficult one for VA disability lawyers to establish. Many things can cause chronic back pain and other such injuries. The disability itself is usually straightforward.

Radiation exposure claims have the opposite characteristics. Nexus is usually easy to establish. Not many people drive past former nuclear weapon test sites on their way to work. The disability, however, may be difficult to establish. Radiation sickness symptoms may include:

  • Weakness,
  • Unusual bleeding from the nose or rectum,
  • Inflammation,
  • Fever, and
  • Diarrhea.

These symptoms are incredibly vague. If a Veteran files a disability benefits application and undergoes a C&P examination, radiation sickness is easy to miss. That is especially true if, as in often the case, the doctor only took a brief look at the Veteran’s service records. Additionally, not all C&P physicians are well-qualified in this area.

Therefore, in order to establish a disability, many attorneys partner with independent doctors who recognize radiation sickness when they see it. These doctors are also in a good position to assess the disability in terms of daily impairment. More on that below.

It is also important for Veterans to be mindful of radiation sickness symptoms. Many veterans stationed on the Marshall Islands in the early or mid-Cold War era will get sick. But not all of them.

Radiation Sickness and TDIU

The military took some precautions to limit radiation exposure at Enewetak Atoll. Compare that to Agent Orange exposure victims. These individuals usually did not even wear masks or gloves when they came into contact with this toxic substance. Because of these limited precautions, complete disability due to radiation sickness is rather rare.

In some cases, Veterans who are not entirely disabled may still be eligible for full VA disability benefits. Vets rated at 60% disability may still be eligible for Total Disability due to Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits.

As the name implies, Claims Examiners grant these benefits on a case-by-case basis. What may be a disabling injury to one person maybe a little more than a nuisance to someone else?

Meeting minimum TDIU qualifications, such as a severe case of radiation sickness, is typically not sufficient. To obtain maximum benefits, attorneys often partner with outside professionals, such as doctors and vocational experts. The word “disability” has medical, legal, and vocational significance. These vocational experts take all these meanings into account when they prepare their written reports.

TDIU benefits for a 100% rating start at $3106.04/mo and can be more with dependents and Special Monthly Compensation, along with free medical care at any VA facility. 

Team Up with Experienced Lawyers

Disability benefits may be available to vets stationed on the Marshall Islands during the Cold War. For a free consultation with an experienced Veterans disability lawyer, contact Cameron Firm, PC at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact box to your right. We are here to represent Veterans nationwide.

This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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