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Directed Energy

Some electromagnetic energy sources such as microwaves, radiofrequency, and lasers as well as sound energy have been used for many years for a variety of military purposes. Veterans or their family members may have concerns about reports that these energy sources, known as directed energy or DE, may have been used in ways that might harm people intentionally. DE refers to concentrating these energy sources and may intentionally or unintentionally damage equipment or facilities, or harm people.

Air Force Research Laboratory's Tactical High Power Operational Responder
The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Tactical High Power
Operational Responder developed for airbase defense. Photo
credit: AFRL Directed Energy Directorate

We are just starting to learn about the health effects of DE. The potential health hazards or effects of a DE exposure can depend on a number of factors such as the type of energy (like microwaves, pulsed radiofrequency, or sound waves), the dose, the duration of energy exposure, whether or not there is shielding that would reduce exposure and the distance from the energy sources, among others. There may be a number of health effects with DE, depending on the type and dose of energy used. For example, laser exposure may result in blindness if directed at the eyes and may result in skin thermal injuries if the skin is exposed.

VA recognizes that Veterans may have questions about possible exposure to DE and the potential for health effects. VA will continue to follow developments in understanding the health effects of DE and update this webpage as new information becomes available.

Health concerns?

If you are concerned about health problems related to military service, talk to your health care provider or contact your local VA Environmental Health Coordinator to help you get more information from a health care provider.

VA offers a variety of health care benefits to eligible Veterans. Not enrolled in the VA health care system? Find out if you qualify for VA health care.

Compensation benefits for health problems

Veterans may file a claim for disability compensation for health problems they believe are related to military service. VA decides these claims on a case-by-case basis. File a claim online.

Learn more about VA benefits.

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TDD (Hearing Impaired)