A group of veterans who were involved with atomic testing and cleanup operations in World War II filed suit yesterday challenging the government's rules for compensation of physical disorders due to radiation exposure.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court here, claims that the Veterans Administration and the Defense Department approve the rules before interested parties, including scientists and the public, have an opportunity to comment.

The suit also says that the government strictly limits claims for such benefits to certain types of disorders it says could be related to radiation exposure.

For example, a radiation program guide put out by the VA for use by regional offices establishes eight types of cancer -- but no other types of chronic effects of radiation exposure -- that can be used as a basis for awarding disability benefits, the lawsuit alleges.

Since the rules went into effect last summer, all 220 radiation-related disability claims filed by veterans or their relatives have been denied by the government, the lawsuit said. Those veterans claimed, among other disabilities, tumors, degenerative bone and muscle disease, and genetic damage due to radiation exposure, the suit said. Overall, 98 percent of 490 radiation-related claims for veterans have been turned down, the suit said.

Yesterday's suit was filed by seven veterans, two widows of veterans, the National Association of Atomic Veterans Inc. and the Committee for U.S. Veterans of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It asked the court to certify the case as a class action on behalf of more than 250,000 veterans and their families who may have a claim against the government as a result of radiation exposure.

The veterans asked the court to stop the VA from denying any claims until the government accepts full public comment on the rules for benefit awards.