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Some Cold War-Era Veterans May Be Entitled To Thousands In Compensation
In Arizona, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates around 10 percent of our residents are U.S. veterans. Many who built nuclear weapons during the Cold War era are entitled to tens of thousands of unclaimed federal dollars.
In a hotel lobby, a diverse crowd trickles into a conference hall with one thing in common: they, or a loved one, were exposed to radiation during the Cold War.
“In about 1942, the govt started to build nuclear weapons in over 350 facilities around the country. Many of those workers exposed to radiation," said Malcolm Nelson with the U.S. Department of Energy.
Under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICPA), Nelson said those workers or their survivors could qualify for $50,000 to $250,000 in benefits.
Martin Charley came to see if his father’s claim still qualifies under EEOICPA.
“He didn’t get the whole amount," Charley said. "He passed on before he got what was coming to him.”
Uranium miners are applying for benefits. But, Nelson said government contractors are not.
“Many of those workers don’t understand they may have been department of energy employees," Nelson said.
Jason Bougere with the Department of Justice said millions more dollars sit unclaimed by Cold War military vets who may not know they should apply for both EEOICPA and the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.
“Especially veterans who might have participated in atmospheric nuclear test — from the Trinity tests of 1945 through the end of 1962," Bougere said.
That area includes the Nevada Testing Sights and the Pacific Proving Grounds.
If it’s unclear where someone served, Bougere said the DOJ can help by contacting the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
“They run a program called the Nuclear Test Personnel Review that has records of personnel who participated in atmospheric nuclear tests,” Bougere said.
Both Bougere and Nelson said there are some people who may not have been properly recorded as workers, but may have certificates or recollection of events that could be corroborated and confirmed for eligibility.
Currently, Congress has placed no eligibility deadline on filing for EEOICPA, but filing for benefits under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act ends in 2022.