They have been crying out seeking help for decades and America has turned its back on these special warriors. We knew there were problems not long after the first fireballs lit up the skies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but we did nothing. We, the nation of great global compassion for those who suffer through every manmade and natural disaster, have had little to no feeling for our own warriors who were exposed to atomic radiation.
Our atomic veterans have been facing the ravages of disease caused by exposure to ionizing radiation since 1945. That is a sixty-five year history of our country failing to care for the very people we placed in harm’s way. In fact, our government was so negligent in its atomic testing program that it failed to keep adequate records of the thousands upon thousands of servicemen it exposed to elements that brought about radiogenic disease.
Was atomic testing truly harmful to our military personnel? You can answer that question yourself. With very few exceptions, atomic veterans are male. Worldwide, the average life expectancy of a male is 67.2 years. In the United States that life expectancy is 78 years. Since 1945 those military personnel exposed to atomic radiation have died at an average age of 57 years.
Most of those who were party to our atomic testing program have marched on to their final reward. Of those who remain among the living, nearly all suffer from some form of radiogenic disease. They are now in their 70s and 80s. For them time is running out.
Another question to ask is… What are we doing for these veterans who have been crying out to us for more than half a century? Well, the Democrat Party has made some political capital with the issue by the establishment of HR 2573, but Representative Bob Filmer (D – Cal) Chairman of the House Veterans Committee has done nothing to move the bill out of his committee for more than a year. It has not even had a single hearing.
What does HR 2573, endorsed by the American Legion, the Marine Corps League and the Radiated Veterans of America do for our service personnel in need of treatment? It provides for all atomic veterans to be identified as having service connection for all recognized radiogenic diseases. This includes an expanded list of radiogenic presumptive diseases that the medical community has recognized as caused by exposure to radiation. To date the Veterans Administration does treat or compensate atomic veterans for many of these recognized diseases and cannot do so unless Congress acts.
As with most legislation or proposed legislation that those in Congress have determined will gain them little political advantage or campaign donations, HR 2573 is about to die, just as the veterans it would help have been doing since the end of World War II. All those now in the House and Senate, along with all Americans who have failed to support these veterans, should bow their heads in shame. Our warriors cried out…and nobody listened.
Thomas D. Segel