By: Keith Kiefer
Keith Kiefer, a Veteran, AMAC member, and AMAC Action chapter leader and delegate, is also National Commander of the National Association of Atomic Veterans (NAAV). He is working to make Veterans and other individuals aware of a benefit that, without further legislation, will expire 10 July 2022.
A one-time partial restitution and apology is available to a qualifying Veteran (On-site participant), Downwinder, or Uranium worker for health impacts linked to their exposure to radiation.
In their absence, a surviving spouse or children may make a claim. The program is called the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).
It’s estimated that between 195,000 to 550,000 Veterans were exposed to ionizing radiation when the United States conducted atmospheric nuclear bomb tests between 1945 and 1962. Presently, a one-time payment of $75,000 is available for those veterans contracting a qualifying disease. With time running out, Keith is urging people to apply now and call on Congress to extend the program.
Two other special cohorts may qualify for compensation: Downwinders and Uranium workers. Downwinders are individuals that lived in some counties downwind from the Nevada Testing Site and contracted one of nineteen diseases. Presently, a one-time payment of $50,000 is available. Qualifying Uranium workers can receive a one-time payment of $100,000.
Soon, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) of 2021 will be introduced in the House and Senate, which would extend the program and expand coverage to additional downwinders and uranium workers. The bills will hopefully also extend coverage to the Enewetak Atoll Radiological Cleanup Veterans and Palomares Cleanup Veterans, who were exposed to radiation from cleaning up radioactive material. We need individuals to contact their two Federal US Senators and Congressperson and ask them to cosponsor and pass these bills. If the legislation doesn’t include the Cleanup Veterans, have them ask for an amendment to include them.
RECA is a very efficient program administered through the Justice Department.
RECA is often the difference between a veteran becoming homeless or bankrupt. An example is Paul Laird ll, an Enewetak Atoll Radiological Cleanup Veteran. He lost his sixth battle with cancer; four of the cancers were unique. With the loss of income due to illnesses and mounting medical bills, upon his death, the family sold the home and had to move. Because Enewetak Atoll Radiological Cleanup veterans are presently not included in RECA and the Veterans Administration (VA) does not recognize this group as Atomic Veterans, financial assistance was not available to Paul or his family.
Since the beginning of the program, up to August of 2021, over $2.4 billion has been awarded to over 38,000 claimants.
For more information about qualifying for benefits, contact the Justice Department’s RECA review at 1-800-729-7327.
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