IN SUPPORT OF A BILL TO INCLUDE VETERANS WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE CLEAN-UP OF ENIWETOK ATOLL AS A RADIATION-RISK ACTIVITY FOR THE PURPOSES OF LAWS ADMINISTERED BY THE SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
* Ms. BORDALLO. Madam Speaker, today I have reintroduced a bill, along with my colleagues, Congressman Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii and Congressman Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa, to amend Title 38 of the United States Code to explicitly define participation in clean-up operations that were undertaken by the United States Army at Eniwetok Atoll of the Republic of the Marshall Islands as a ``radiation-risk activity'' for the purposes of qualifying veterans who participated in such operations for service-connected benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This bill would correct in statute a long-standing inequity for veterans who participated in clean-up of radioactive materials and debris on Eniwetok Atoll resulting from forty-three atmospheric nuclear detonations that occurred there and that were conducted by the United States Government during the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s. Service members were detailed to Eniwetok Atoll during or around the years 1977 through 1982 to confine and cap contaminated soil. Part of the clean-up operations involved the construction of a concrete dome to cover a crater.
* The legislation we have reintroduced today would simply allow veterans who participated in any clean-up activity on Eniwetok Atoll during their course of their service to be deemed eligible for Department of Veterans Affairs radiation programs. Such programs provide medical benefits to certain veterans who were exposed to radiation while on Active Duty. Veterans who are currently covered under radiation-risk activities include those who participated on-site in executing the atmospheric tests in the Pacific Basin.
* We recognize and commend the atomic veterans who performed clean-up operations on Eniwetok Atoll and thank them for their service to our nation. I introduced the same legislation in the 110th Congress to correct this concern. I hope that our legislation will be given fair consideration by the Committee on Veterans' Affairs in the current Congress. I further hope the Department of Defense makes available to the public, to our veterans and their families, and to the Department of Veterans Affairs all recorded relating to the nature of the tests and clean-up activities that were undertaken on Eniwetok Atoll.