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Ionizing radiation is radiation with enough energy to separate—or ionize—an electron from an atom. It can also damage DNA in cells, leading to a number of long-term health effects for those exposed.

Veterans who engaged in what the VA classifies as radiation-risk activities in the course of their service—including the estimated 195,000 “atomic veterans,” exposed to radiation during atmospheric nuclear bomb tests between 1945 and 1962—may be able to obtain VA disability benefits for diseases tied to exposure.

Presumptive Diseases for Veterans Who Performed Radiation-Risk Activities

The VA lists the following as presumptive diseases for veterans who performed radiation-risk activities during their time in the service:


  • Bile ducts
  • Bladder
  • Bone
  • Brain
  • Bronchiolo-alveolar
  • Breast
  • Colon
  • Esophagus
  • Gall bladder
  • Kidney
  • Liver (excluding cases where cirrhosis or hepatitis B is indicated)
  • Lung
  • Pancreas
  • Pelvis
  • Pharynx
  • Ovary
  • Renal
  • Salivary gland
  • Small intestine
  • Stomach
  • Thyroid
  • Urinary tract
  • Urethra
  • Leukemia (excluding chronic lymphocytic leukemia)
  • Lymphomas (excluding Hodgkin’s disease)
  • Multiple myeloma, or cancer affecting the plasma cells

Because these are listed as presumptive diseases associated with radiation-risk activities, you will not need to establish a service-connection in order to receive VA disability benefits.

Other diseases that might be tied to radiation exposure include:

  • Brain tumors
  • Tumors of the central nervous system
  • Parathyroid adenoma
  • Non-malignant thyroid nodular disease
  • Cataracts affecting the back of the lens
  • Other diseases that can be linked to radiation exposure through medical or scientific evidence

Qualifying for benefits will depend on several factors, including the amount of time that has passed between exposure and the progress of the disease. Cases will be evaluated individually through the VA disability benefits claims process.

If you are a Texas veteran dealing with an illness connected to radiation-risk activities during your time in the service, schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled and compassionate Texas veterans’ attorneys today. Call toll-free 800-800-6353or fill out the online contact form.

Morgan & Weisbrod LLP

by Paul B. Burkhalter
Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.


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