President Biden has signed a proclamation naming July 16, 2021, as National Atomic Veterans Day as a way to recognize the service and sacrifices of atomic veterans. In the proclamation, Biden calls upon Americans to “observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities that honor our Nation’s Atomic Veterans whose brave service and sacrifice played an important role in the defense of our Nation.”
Many servicemembers have been exposed to slower-acting, and in some cases just as lethal, toxins in the form of atomic radiation, toxic defoliations and burn pits. These toxic exposures have resulted in service-related illnesses, some of which veterans are unable to seek care for at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The American Legion has fought for service-connected disability benefits for conditions linked to toxic exposures for decades and will continue to do so for the post-9/11 generation of veterans.
Through Resolution No. 118: Environmental Exposures, The American Legion supports efforts to expand access to VA healthcare benefits for veterans who have been exposed to toxic hazards while on active duty. The American Legion urges Congress to reintroduce and pass the Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Act of 2020 and supports further studies into conditions directly related to contaminants in order to establish a complete list of presumptive diseases caused by toxic exposure during service.
The American Legion has been working with the office of Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., who lead a bipartisan effort urging the recognition of America’s atomic veterans through bill H.R. 464.