McGovern Applauds Passage of Amendment to Honor America’s Atomic Veterans, Servicemembers Exposed to Radiation During Nuclear Weapons Tests
WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02) spoke on the House Floor to call for the House to pass his bipartisan amendment to the FY 17 National Defense Authorization Act to honor the more than 200,000 American veterans who were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation while conducting nuclear weapons tests during between 1945 and 1962.
McGovern later applauded the passage of his amendment as part of an en-bloc package and the bill will now go to conference negotiations with the Senate when the Senate finishes consideration of its version of the FY 2017 defense authorizations bill.
Full Text of Congressman McGovern’s Remarks Are Below:
“I rise in favor of the McGovern-Pompeo amendment, which is part of this en-bloc, to recognize the service of Atomic Veterans or their surviving family members.
“Between 1945 and 1962, about 200,000 servicemembers conducted hundreds of nuclear weapons tests and were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. Sworn to secrecy, they couldn’t even tell their doctors.
“Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush recognized their service by providing specialized care and compensation, but this isn’t enough.
“Joe Mondello, a constituent of mine from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, and other Atomic Veterans, helped bring this issue to my attention. It’s long past time to honor their service.
“Last year, with the help of the chairman, in the authorization bill, we included this amendment, but then the Department of Defense insisted we remove it. Their explanation? ‘We don’t have a medal and we don’t want to create one. Congress should find another way to honor these veterans.’ That’s no excuse. In fact, that’s insensitive, that’s dismissive, and it’s ungrateful. We should be appalled.
“Tragically, many of these Atomic Veterans have already died, without receiving recognition. They kept a code of silence that likely led to many passing away too soon. We must right this wrong. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment and I urge the Senate to do the same thing.”