U.S. service members who were put to work cleaning up radioactive soil on Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands after nuclear testing there in the 1950s would be provided medical treatment under a bill introduced Monday by Hawaii Rep. Mark Takai.
The Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act would extend the law covering veterans who helped clean up Japanese nuclear sites in the 1940s and ’50s to service members who participated in cleanup operations at Enewetak. The U.S. tested nuclear weapons there in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that contaminated soil was scraped up and encapsulated in a cement container known as the Runit Dome.
Takai wants the government to pay for medical treatment for vets suffering from service-related illness that comes from exposure to radiation.
“These men and women risked their lives in answering the call of duty to serve their country, and are suffering as a consequence,” he said in a statement.
Takai noted that Enewetak cleanup veterans have a 35 percent cancer rate and are scattered across the U.S., including some residents of Hawaii.
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Patti Epler is the Editor and General Manager of Civil Beat. She's been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, primarily in Hawaii, Alaska, Washington and Arizona. You can follow her on twitter at @PattiEpler, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 808-377-0561.