From: "\"Doc\" Bruce K. Melson" <email@example.com>
US set to ease benefit rules for 'atomic' veterans
By Lisa Richwine
WASHINGTON, Aug 6 (Reuters) - The Bush administration has agreed to ease
restrictions on federal benefits for veterans who were exposed to atomic
weapons radiation and later developed certain cancers, a senator said on
"Atomic veterans" are currently eligible for federal compensation, but many
have not been able to meet the government's tough standards to prove their
illnesses were related to military service.
A regulation expected to be published on Wednesday removes the burden of
proof from atomic veterans with cancers of the lungs, colon, bone, brain or
ovary, Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota said.
The government will be required to pay monthly benefits to veterans with
those cancers who served at atomic test sites, or to their surviving spouses,
"This is long overdue. ... It's just so unconscionable that this happened to
these veterans," Wellstone said in an interview.
Department of Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Laurie Tranter confirmed that a
regulation regarding atomic veterans was expected to be published on
Wednesday. She said she could not provide other details but that it probably
would take effect in January after a public comment period.
The government has estimated that 205,000 veterans were exposed to radiation
during Cold War nuclear tests from 1945 to 1962. A further 195,000 were
exposed after the 1945 World War Two atomic bombings of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, Japan, where they were ordered to clean up contaminated debris.
Many have died from cancer.
Soldiers said they were not warned about potential dangers and given minimal
or no protection from radiation exposure.
Congress has passed laws setting compensation for atomic veterans, but
veterans and their widows have been lobbying the government to ease
eligibility requirements for years.
"It's just like an answer to a prayer. I'm so excited," said Pat Broudy,
national legislative director f??? Association of Atomic Veterans and the
widow of an atomic veteran.
Benefits could be as high as $2,00???veterans and about $950 a month for
widows, Broudy said.
"When the way comes to an end, then change - having changed, you pass through."
Bruce "Doc". Melson