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Radiation Exposure

Find out if you can get disability compensation or benefits for illnesses—including some cancers—believed to be caused by contact with radiation during military service.

Learn about radiation-related illnesses.

Can I get disability benefits from VA?

You may be able to get disability benefits if you have an illness that’s on the list of those believed to be caused by radiation—or that doctors say may be caused by radiation—and if you had contact with ionizing radiation while serving in the military by:

  • Being part of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing, or
  • Serving in the postwar occupation of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, or
  • Being a prisoner of war (POW) in Japan, or
  • Working as an x-ray technician, in a reactor plant, or in nuclear medicine or radiography (while on active duty or during active or inactive duty for training in the Reserves), or
  • Doing tasks like those of a Department of Energy (DOE) employee that make them a member of the Special Exposure Cohort (See 42 U.S.C. 7384L(14))

You may also be able to get disability benefits if you were:

  • Part of underground nuclear weapons testing at Amchitka Island, Alaska, or
  • Assigned to a gaseous diffusion plant at Paducah, Kentucky, or
  • Assigned to a gaseous diffusion plant at Portsmouth, Ohio, or
  • Assigned to a gaseous diffusion plant at Area K-25 at Oak Ridge, Tennessee

To qualify for benefits, you must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.

Who’s covered?


What kind of disability benefits can I get?

  • Health care
  • Compensation (payments)

How do I get these benefits?

You’ll need to apply for benefits. Apply for benefits.

Your service records must show that you were part of 1 of the radiation risk activities described above. You’ll also need to claim an illness or disability believed to be caused by contact with radiation. It’s not enough to state that you had contact with radiation during service.

When you apply, we’ll ask the military branch that you served with (or the Defense Threat Reduction Agency) to give us a range of how much radiation they think you may have come into contact with. We’ll use the highest level of the range they report to decide on your benefits.