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Franken introduces bill to help nuclear cleanup veterans

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Congresswoman Grace Meng, D-N.Y., have introduced a bill to give health care benefits to "Atomic Veterans" exposed to high levels of harmful radiation when assigned to clean up nuclear testing sites during the l...

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U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Congresswoman Grace Meng, D-N.Y., have introduced a bill to give health care benefits to "Atomic Veterans" exposed to high levels of harmful radiation when assigned to clean up nuclear testing sites during the late 1970s.

The Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act-named after the late Congressman Mark Takai of Hawaii-would designate veterans who participated in the nuclear cleanup of Enewetak Atoll on the Marshall Islands as "radiation-exposed veterans," and make them eligible to receive the same healthcare and benefits given to other service members who were involved in active nuclear tests, a news release from Franken's office said.

"One of my highest priorities as a Senator is making sure that our veterans and their families get every benefit that they deserve," Franken said. "Atomic Cleanup Veterans are often forced to pay out of pocket for certain medical costs because the VA does not recognize that they were exposed to high levels of radiation. Despite being put in harm's way, these veterans are being shortchanged. Our bipartisan, bicameral legislation ensures that veterans who participated in the cleanup of the Enewetak Atoll receive the benefits they deserve and should have received long ago."

Takai was a veteran of the U.S. Army and Hawaii Army National Guard who passed away last year. Takai originally sponsored the bill in the House during the last session of Congress.

Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands was the site of more than 40 nuclear tests between 1946 and 1958. The service members who participated in its nuclear cleanup between 1977 and 1980 suffer from high rates of cancers due to their exposure to radiation and nuclear waste, but are currently unable to receive the same treatments and service-related disability presumptions that other "radiation-exposed veterans" receive, the release said.

Related Topics: VETERANS
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