The largest nuclear test ever conducted by the United States took place over the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in 1954. If you're an atomic veteran who acquired cancer as a result of U.S. nuclear testing in the South Pacific or on U.S. soil, you're eligible for compensation under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). RECA, however, is set to expire in 2022.
Fortunately, Congress is currently considering RECA amendments that would extend the act until 2045. If you were employed by the U.S. military or its contractors during nuclear testing in the Bikini Atoll, you may be entitled to increased compensation if Congress passes the new amendments.
Extension of RECA Trust Fund to 2045
The expiry of RECA is approaching as atomic veterans suffering from radiation-related cancers face higher health risks from COVID-19. Onsite atomic veterans, individuals downwind of the radiation, and uranium miners who acquired cancer as a result of nuclear weapons testing between 1951 and 1992 are eligible for compensation.
The 1954 Bikini Atoll test dispersed nuclear radioactive debris over a 7,000 square mile area. Downwinders affected by the radiation were only eligible for compensation under the Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal. The tribunal ceased functioning in 2011, after paying out over $563 million to Bikini Atoll victims. Atomic veterans from the Bikini Atoll and three other Marshall Island regions (Enewetak Atoll, Johnston Island, and Christmas Island), however, do qualify for compensation under RECA.
Expanded RECA Fund Access
Hundreds of thousands of Americans are estimated to have been affected by radiation from nuclear tests that took place on U.S. soil and the South Pacific. Yet to date, RECA has only paid out 36,000 claims. Part of the reason is that only a few states are covered (specifically, designated counties in Arizona, Nevada, or Utah).
The amendments before Congress would extend RECA to downwinders in more states. As mentioned, atomic veterans from the Marshall Islands are eligible, but not downwinders. However, the amendment does include downwinders from Marshall Island nuclear tests in Guam.
Increased Payout Per Atomic Veteran
Bikini Atoll veterans, as well as other atomic veterans, will benefit if an amendment to increase the payout is passed. The proposed payout under the RECA amendments is a maximum of $150,000. In addition, health benefits are being added.
If you're an atomic veteran who has not yet made a claim for the one-time benefit, the increased compensation is an incentive to do so. Survivors of atomic benefits may also claim compensation.
To learn more about Bikini Atoll, contact a resource that can help with a compensation claim.Share
9 July 2020
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