President Biden Signs Defense Authorization Bill into Law, includes Spanberger’s Provision to Mark National Atomic Veterans Day Every Year, Pay Raise for Servicemembers

The Bipartisan Legislation also includes the Congresswoman’s Amendment to Combat “Havana Syndrome”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Joe Biden today signed into law U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger’s legislation to recognize Atomic Veterans as part of the 2022 (FY22) National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Spanberger voted with a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House to pass the legislation earlier this month.

Atomic Veterans participated in nuclear tests between 1945 and 1962, served with U.S. military forces in or around Hiroshima and Nagasaki before 1946, or were held as prisoners of war in or near Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Due to their exposure to unsafe levels of radiation during their service, many of these Atomic Veterans developed serious health complications. Additionally, as these veterans were sworn to secrecy, many of them were prevented from seeking medical care or disability compensation and were never fully recognized for their sacrifice.

Spanberger’s bipartisan amendment recognizes the service and sacrifice of Atomic Veterans. Specifically, the Congresswoman’s legislation requires the President to issue a proclamation every year calling on the United States to observe National Atomic Veterans Day. Earlier this year, Spanberger led the introduction of a bipartisan resolution that called on the President to issue a proclamation in observance of National Atomic Veterans Day — which he recognized.

“When I hear the stories of America’s Atomic Veterans — who were sworn to secrecy for decades and never fully recognized for their contributions, I hear the stories of patriots. I hear the stories of brave Americans who served in dangerous and secret missions. And I hear the stories of how the United States of America — through the tireless commitment of our servicemembers — became the most powerful nation in the world,” said Spanberger. “I am proud to see President Biden sign this legislation into law, so that we can recognize the service of our Atomic Veterans every year. Since arriving in the U.S. House, I have had the great honor of meeting with many of Central Virginia’s Atomic Veterans, and I am grateful to the administration for working directly with me to make sure this day becomes an annual designation. Additionally, I am glad to have helped ensure our current servicemembers receive a much-deserved pay raise as they continue to protect our nation at home and abroad. I will keep working in Congress to provide the pay, support, and benefits they have earned through their selfless service.”

“Our servicemembers routinely put their lives and livelihoods on the line, in and out of combat, to defend our Nation,” said John Maxwell, Commissioner, Virginia Department of Veterans Services. “Atomic veterans served in some of the most dangerous situations imaginable, and I am glad that they will continue to receive this recognition for their immense sacrifice.”

The defense bill includes a 2.7 percent pay increase for U.S. servicemen and women, as well as a Spanberger-cosponsored provision that requires the U.S. military to provide Reserve and National Guard servicemembers incentive and special duty pays at the same rate as their active duty counterparts.

Additionally, the bipartisan bill includes Spanberger’s amendment to respond to “Havana Syndrome” incidents. The NDAA includes Spanberger’s bipartisan amendment to strengthen interagency coordination and response to suspected attacks that result in anomalous health incidents — sometimes referred to as “Havana Syndrome.” Specifically, the amendment requires the administration to designate senior officials at the National Security Council and at relevant agencies to manage and coordinate America’s response. In July 2021, the U.S. House passed another Spanberger-authored amendment urging the U.S. State Department to protect U.S. personnel following a series of these mysterious, dangerous incidents.

BACKGROUND

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated July 16 as “National Atomic Veterans’ Day.” The day was “dedicated to those patriotic Americans who through their participation in these tests helped lead the United States to the forefront of technology in defense of our great Nation and the freedoms we as Americans hold so dear.”

On July 16, 2021, Spanberger spoke alongside Central Virginia veterans on National Atomic Veterans Day to recognize the critical role Atomic Veterans played in protecting the United States. Spanberger was joined by Central Virginia veterans — as well as representatives from the National Association of Atomic Veterans, the American Legion, the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, the Fawn Lake Veterans Group, and the Virginia War Memorial.

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