The United States conducted more than 200 tests involving nuclear weapons from 1945 to 1962, according to the Department of Justice. In the years that followed, some people who were exposed to radiation during this process developed cancer or other health issues or may have a higher risk of developing health issues as they age. The United States government passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to assist certain people who may have been affected by the country's nuclear weapon testing program. Additional details are available through the Department of Justice, but in general, there are three main classes of people who may be entitled to financial compensation under the government's RECA program.

You Were Not Involved in the Nuclear Testing, But You Lived Downwind from or Near the Testing Site

The Department of Justice website for RECA notes that a large amount of the government's nuclear testing was conducted in the state of Nevada. It's commonly known public knowledge that this test site was used because the weapons could be detonated over a desert with no civilization nearby, but in the years since the test, some people who lived "downwind" or within a certain distance of the testing area may have developed illness from radiation exposure. If you lived near the Nevada testing site, you may be entitled to compensation up to $50,000, according to the DOJ.

Workers Who Were "Onsite Participants" at a Nuclear Testing Site

If you were employed by the government or worked for a contractor that was hired by the government and you were onsite when a nuclear weapon was deployed and tested, it's possible you may have been exposed to radiation, even though the weapons were obviously detonated away from your immediate location. If you were involved in assembling a nuclear weapon, for example, you may have come into contact with uranium or other hazardous materials that may have caused harm to you even though you didn't realize it until years later. The Department of Justice's website states that "Onsite Participants" may be awarded up to $75,000 in compensation.

Uranium Miners, Millers, and Transporters

You can't create a nuclear weapon without uranium and the government hired people to mine, mill, and transport uranium ore to the people working on the nuclear weapons. Uranium is known to be a hazardous material and if you worked in an area that brought you into close contact with uranium ore thanks to the assistance you provided the U.S. government with its nuclear program, you may be entitled to receive up to $100,000 in financial compensation, per the DOJ's RECA website.

If you believe you are entitled to a payout under RECA, take a look at the DOJ's RECA website and begin putting your claim together; or, contact a professional who may be able to assist you with filing a claim. A company like National Cancer Benefits Center can provide more information and assistance.