Statement on Signing the Radiation-Exposed Veterans Compensation Act of 1988

 

May 20, 1988

 

I have today approved H.R. 1811, the ``Radiation-Exposed Veterans Compensation Act of 1988.'' The Act adjusts the law governing eligibility for disability benefits for certain veterans due to the unique circumstances of their military service in the early days of the atomic age.

 

The adjustment applies in limited circumstances to three specific categories of American veterans:

 

 -- veterans who served with U.S. forces occupying Hiroshima or Nagasaki, Japan during the period beginning on August 6, 1945, and ending on July 1, 1946;

 

 -- veterans interned as prisoners of war in Japan during World War II (or who served on active duty in Japan immediately following such internment), if their internment resulted in an opportunity for exposure to ionizing radiation comparable to that of veterans who served in the forces occupying Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and

 

 -- veterans who participated on-site in a test involving the atmospheric detonation of a nuclear device.

 

The adjustment applies only with respect to specified diseases -- primarily cancer of various organs -- that manifest themselves within 40 years after the veteran last participated in the military radiation-related activity or, in the case of leukemia, 30 years after such participation. Thus, for veterans who served in Hiroshima and Nagasaki or were prisoners of war in Japan, the period for manifestation of the disease already has passed.

 

The existing fair and equitable system for adjudication of veterans' claims for disability benefits requires demonstration of a connection between a veteran's disability and the veteran's military service. While this legislation bypasses the requirement for demonstration of such a connection, it does so only in specific, narrow circumstances for a truly unique group of veterans.

 

Enactment of this legislation does not represent a judgment that service-related radiation exposure of veterans covered by the Act in fact caused any disease, nor does it represent endorsement of a principle of permitting veterans to receive benefits funded through veterans programs which bear no relationship to their former military service.

 

Instead, the Act gives due recognition for the unusual service rendered by Americans who participated in military activities involving exposure to radiation generated by the detonation of atomic explosives. The Nation is grateful for their special service, and enactment of H.R. 1811 makes clear the Nation's continuing concern for their welfare.

 

Ronald Reagan

 

The White House,

 

May 20, 1988.

 

Note: H.R. 1811, approved May 20, was assigned Public Law No. 100 - 321.