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Vets Urged to Get Radiation Care

August 7, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Thousands of veterans exposed to cancer-causing radiation during atomic tests conducted decades ago could find it easier to get compensation under a new regulation aimed at giving them the same treatment as civilians.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is to publish Wednesday in the Federal Register a proposed rule covering vets who were stricken with cancers of the lungs, colon, bone, ovary, and brain and central nervous system and who were present at certain atomic bomb exercises, served at Hiroshima and Nagasaki during post-World War II occupation in Japan or were prisoners of war in Japan.

So-called ‘atomic vets’ already receive compensation for 16 types of cancer, including leukemia, thyroid, breast, stomach, liver and esophagus.

The new regulation adds the five new diseases and expands places they may have been exposed to make their benefits comparable to what civilians have been receiving since last summer, said Veterans affairs spokesman Jim Benson.

The five illnesses are being added to veteran affair’s so-called presumptive list _ meaning if a veteran is found to have the disease and the veteran served in those locations, it is presumed the illness is related to service time.

``It’s a perfect example of justice denied way too long,″ said Sen. Paul Wellstone, a Minnesota Democrat who pushed to extend the benefits.

Officials expect to receive some 92,000 claims from surviving vets and 48,000 from dependents. They have estimated the cost of the program over 10 years at $769 million.

Last year, Congress made it easier for more civilian employees to get payments from exposure in Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Tennessee, Alaska and other sites. The proposed regulation would extend that to veterans.

Publishing the regulation opens a 60-day comment period after which officials could incorporate comments or amend the rule. It is then subject to another 90-day comment period before becoming final.

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