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Cold War Era

If you served during the Cold War era—anytime between 1945 and 1991—you may be at risk of certain health conditions. Learn about these conditions and what to do next to take care of your health.

What health risks should I know about related to service during the Cold War era?

You may be at risk of illnesses or injuries caused by contact with:

  • Radiation: A type of radiation exposure from atmospheric and underground nuclear weapons tests
  • Mustard gas: An odorless poisonous gas used in military tests in the 1940s
  • Herbicides: Agent Orange and other herbicides used in Vietnam and tested or stored in other locations
  • Occupational (job-related) hazards: Chemicals, paints, radiation, and other hazards you may have come in contact with through your military job
  • Noise: Harmful sounds from guns, explosives, rockets, heavy weapons, jets and aircraft, and machinery that can cause or contribute to hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears)

You may also be at risk of illnesses caused by contact with hazards found in certain projects and locations, such as:

What should I do now?

Take these steps to make sure you’re taking care of your health:

  1. Talk to your primary health care provider or your local VA environmental health coordinator about any health concerns related to your military service. Find your local VA environmental health coordinator.

  2. Ask your local VA environmental health coordinator about getting a free Ionizing Radiation Registry health exam. Learn more about the Ionizing Radiation Registry health exam.

  3. Find out if you can get disability compensation (monthly payments) and other benefits if you have an illness or injury caused—or made worse—by your active-duty service. See if you qualify for disability benefits due to contact with hazardous materials.

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