VA Disability Rating for Radiation Exposure

VA Disability Rating for Radiation Exposure

Veterans are exposed to many hazards and potential dangers that can lead to lifelong disabilities in health conditions. But these hazards aren’t always physical or even visible. In many cases, Veterans may be exposed to dangerous ionizing radiation.

If you or a loved one have developed a harmful health condition due to radiation, you need to know what to expect from VA disability ratings for radiation exposure.

Read on to discover how much you can recover in terms of VA benefits and how to contact knowledgeable attorneys to maximize your application’s strength.

Ionizing Radiation Explained

Put simply, ionizing radiation is a type of energy that includes x-rays, gamma rays, and other ultraviolet rays on the electromagnetic spectrum. Ionizing radiation can harm humans because its energy may shake electrons free from different atoms or molecules, leading to cellular damage and DNA mutations.

Military service members who engage in radiation-risk activity may be exposed to an ionizing radiation dose when it passes through their skin or by inhaling or consuming irradiated particles.

Common Diseases Associated with Radiation Exposure

Radiation exposure can wreak havoc on the body and lead to long-term negative health conditions. Some common diseases and developments associated with radiation exposure during active duty include but are not limited to:

  • Cataracts
  • Tumors of many types. These include the urinary tract, bone, brain, breast, colon, stomach, thyroid, retract, pancreas, pharynx, ovary, lung, esophageal, bile duct, and liver cancer
  • Leukemias
  • Lymphomas
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-malignant thyroid nodular disease
  • Parathyroid adenoma

Ionizing radiation exposure can lead to cancer and the development of these diseases because the radiation rays interfere with regular cellular activity and DNA. Because of this, some cells replicate and mutate into harmful cancer cells.

Who Qualifies for VA Disability Benefits for Radiation Exposure?

Only some Veterans qualify for disability benefits based on radiation exposure. Veterans who wish to claim compensation or other Veterans benefits for radiation exposure must meet three requirements:

  • The Veteran was in the military and served in one or more high-risk events or settings. These are covered in the Atomic Veterans section below.
  • The Veteran developed a radiogenic disease that the VA assumes ionizing radiation exposure caused. These are essentially the presumptive conditions of ionizing radiation and include cancers, leukemia except for chronic lymphocytic leukemia, lymphoma except for Hodgkin’s disease, and multiple myeloma.
  • The Veteran manifested the disease within a certain period. Specifically, bone cancer must manifest within 30 years after radiation exposure. Leukemia can manifest at any time after exposure. Posterior subcapsular cataracts must manifest six months or more after exposure. Any other diseases must manifest five years or more after exposure.

What Are Atomic Veterans?

Many of America’s Veterans are so-called “atomic Veterans.” These Veterans participated in activities recognized by the VA as having included radiation risks. The VA currently counts any Veterans who served in the below locations as Atomic Veterans:

  • Veterans who served in the occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, between the dates of August 6, 1945, and July 1, 1946
  • Veterans who were POWs of Japan during World War II at any point
  • Veterans who participated in atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. These were mostly conducted in Nevada and the Pacific Ocean between 1945 and 1962
  • Veterans who participated in underground nuclear weapons testing in Amchitka Island, Alaska, before January 1, 1974
  • Gulf War Veterans who worked in gaseous diffusion plants for at least 250 days before February 1, 1991. These plants were located in Portsmouth, Ohio, Paducah, Kentucky, and K25 in Polk Ridge, Tennessee
  • Veterans who worked as x-ray technicians and reactor plants or in nuclear medicine or radiography
  • Veterans who performed tasks similar to those of a Department of Energy employee and who are/were members of a Special Exposure Cohort

In addition to the above scenarios, Veterans may have been exposed to ionizing radiation in the following settings:

  • In U.S. Air Force plutonium cleanup missions in Palomares, Spain
  • In the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan that occurred from March 12 to May 11, 2001
  • At McMurdo Station in Antarctica between the years of 1964 and 1973
  • If they were exposed to depleted uranium or radiation from long-range navigation stations between 1942 and 2010

If you aren’t sure whether you were exposed to ionizing radiation, you can take the free Ionizing Radiation Registry health exam offered by a VA health care provider.

Disability Ratings for Radiation Exposure

The VA assigns different disability ratings for conditions or disabilities that result from radiation exposure. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may receive a rating of up to 100% total disability or less.

According to the VA disability benefits compensation charts, if you do not have children and have a 100% disability rating, you could earn up to $4148.03. If you have children and a 100% disability rating, you could earn up to $4295.92 per month. Check out the disability compensation chart to see specifics about how much you could earn in compensation.

Cancer Ratings

If a Veteran receives a service connection for an active cancer of any type, the VA automatically assigns them a 100% disability rating. The Veteran should receive a 100% rating regardless of whether the cancer came from radiation exposure or exposure to other toxic chemicals, such as Agent Orange.

The VA automatically assigns a 100% rating and continues to assign it for as long as the cancer is active. Furthermore, Veterans continue to receive a 100% rating for six months following the successful treatment of the cancer through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other means.

After six months, the Veteran must attend a Compensation and Pension (C&P) Exam to evaluate their current status. If the cancer is no longer active but is in remission, the VA evaluates the cancer based on any residual developments or side effects. 

The VA will assign a Veteran a new rating based on their current disabilities or pain rather than 100%. If the cancer returns, the rating goes back up to 100%.

Leukemia and Lymphoma Ratings

Veterans may receive different disability ratings depending on their leukemia or lymphoma type. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, rated under Diagnostic Code 7703, usually accompanies a rating of 100%, provided the leukemia is in an active phase. 

That’s because CLL doesn’t have an inactive phase, so it’s always assumed to be active and highly dangerous. The 100% rating for CLL continues perpetually even after treatment.

In contrast, Hodgkin’s lymphoma is rated under Diagnostic Code 7709. Veterans receive a 100% rating if they have this type of lymphoma, which is currently an active disease or within a treatment phase, such as chemotherapy. This is similar to the rating system used for other cancers. 

Again, after six months, the VA schedules a C&P Exam for the Veteran to see if the cancer is in remission, at which point the VA will reevaluate the Veteran’s status and discomfort.

All non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is rated using Diagnostic Code 7115. While the disease is active or the Veteran is actively being treated, they should receive a 100% disability rating. That rating will then be reevaluated once the Veteran completes their treatment and the cancer goes into remission.

Myeloma Ratings

Multiple myeloma is a unique type of cancer closely linked to herbicides and radiation exposure. It results in the accumulation of unhealthy cells in the bone marrow, which can weaken the immune system and lead to a widespread biological shutdown.

Diagnostic Code 7712 requires that the VA rate symptomatic multiple myeloma at 100%, no matter what. Furthermore, Veterans should continue to receive a 100% disability rating until five years post-diagnoses. After this point, the VA assigns a mandatory examination to reevaluate the Veteran’s condition. If the cancer has subsided and side effects have ceased, the Veteran may receive a lower disability rating.

Cataract Ratings

If you develop cataracts due to radiation exposure, you may receive a disability rating of between 10% and 60%. Under Diagnostic Code 6027, your cataracts will be rated based on how much they incapacitate your eyesight and how many treatment visits they require at licensed opticians.

Contact Berry Law Today

As a Veteran exposed to radiation, you may be entitled to disability compensation to help you cover the cost of medical treatments and any long-term disabilities you have. 

Berry Law’s knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys can help you acquire that compensation by assisting with VA disability benefits applications, appeals, and anything else you may need. Contact us today for a free consultation and more information.


Ionizing Radiation Exposure | Veterans Affairs

Ionizing Radiation Registry Health Exam for Veterans |

2023 Veterans Disability Compensation Rates |

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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