LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate today approved a resolution sponsored by Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D–Taylor) that would honor Michigan’s atomic veterans for their sacrifice and service to the state and nation.

Senate Resolution 73 memorializes the U.S. Congress to do all it can to support atomic veterans, their spouses and dependents in receiving medical care and disability compensation for their service and sacrifice to the state. It was unanimously approved by the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Homeland Security Committee last Thursday.

Sen. Hopgood also amended the resolution so that it would also include veterans who participated in the cleanup of the Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands between 1977 and 1980. The amendment was also adopted.

“Throughout the history of this great state and nation, Atomic Veterans have answered the call of duty and service, and defended our freedoms as members of the U.S. Armed Forces,” Sen. Hopgood said. “I’m most appreciative that my colleagues on the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Homeland Security Committee recognized how necessary and important this resolution is, and voted in support of it.”

Atomic Veterans are members of the U.S. Armed Forces who participated in atmospheric and underwater nuclear weapons development tests — nearly 200 of which were conducted — from 1945 until 1962. Since then, the National Association of Atomic Veterans has reported that more than 500,000 American Service Members, including those from Michigan, were exposed to toxic levels of radiation during their military service.

“Secrecy laws and oaths prevented many Atomic Veterans from seeking medical care or disability compensation from the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA),” Sen. Hopgood said. “It wasn’t until decades later when Congress repealed the Nuclear Radiation and Secrecy Agreement Act, that they were free to describe their military involvement in nuclear testing and allowed to file for benefits under RECA.”

Many Atomic Veterans developed several types of medical conditions because they were exposed to such intense levels of radiation during their military service, but unfortunately, RECA only covers 21 different radiation-causing cancers — and leaves out many other serious health conditions that veterans have long since suffered with.

There are approximately 195,000 Atomic Veterans across America who are still alive, and many of them may still not know their oath-of-secrecy has been rescinded, and that they might be eligible to receive benefits due to them for radiation-induced illnesses. To date, roughly only 4,000 claims have been awarded to Atomic Veterans and their families under RECA.

“It’s past time we recognize how these veterans sacrificed their personal health while serving the public,” Sen. Hopgood said. “And it’s only right that we support them any way we can.”