Local 'atomic veteran' paid back for lifetime of suffering

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) A local 'atomic veteran' is finally receiving compensation for being exposed to nuclear tests that took place in the 1950s.

Nearly two years ago, we introduced you to Hank Bolden. In 2017, he came to Vermont from Connecticut to share his story in a documentary about atomic veterans.

Atomic vets were soldiers exposed to radiation during a nuclear explosion.

Many, like Bolden, suffer illnesses like cancer from the radiation and many died.

Since the 1950s, atomic veterans across the country have been sharing their stories, hoping something would be done to repay them.

But for the first time in decades, the veteran says he feels relieved.

"I am blessed to be a survivor," Bolden said.

In 1955, Bolden was an 18-year-old Army mechanic who was flown to Nevada.

"I did not volunteer to go there. They volunteered me to go there," he said.

Bolden says he was placed in foxholes about 3 miles from a hydrogen bomb to show how the human body would withstand a nuclear blast.

Now, more than six decades later, Bolden suffers from multiple cancers and eye issues, each with a heavy emotional and financial cost.

He says he hadn't received a single dollar of compensation from the federal government because he couldn't prove he was an atomic vet, until recently.

In December, Bolden took a lie detector test.

"They asked me whether I was in a foxhole and asked me if I felt the heat and the dust, to determine if I was present at the atomic bomb testing," said Bolden.

Three weeks later, he was officially recognized as an atomic veteran and received more than $100,000 in back payments, which covers three years.

He will now receive compensation for the rest of his life.

We asked if he thought that was enough considering what he's gone through.

"Not at all," Bolden replied. "In my opinion that retroactive payment should go back to 1955."

Bolden hopes to get other atomic vets and their families compensation from the government.