"On January 17, 1966, a U.S. B-52 bomber and a refueling plane crashed into each other during a refueling operation near the southern Spanish village of Palomares, killing seven of 11 crew members but no one on the ground. At the time, the U.S. was keeping nuclear-armed warplanes in the air near the Soviet border as the Cold War was in full swing."
According to Stars and Stripes, this 1966 accident involving U.S. hydrogen bombs in Spain left several Veterans ill due to radiation. These veterans are now a seeking compensation by taking a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. A class of Yale Law School students filed the request in Hartford, Connecticut on behalf of the veterans who tried receiving disability benefits from the VA but were denied. These students are representing the Air Force veteran Victor Skaar, as well as many other veterans who they want to see obtain VA benefits.
The VA claimed they had not yet addressed the filing yet, and David Shulkin, Veterans Affairs Secretary, will be the defendant.
There were 1,600 servicemen who went to the scene of the crash to clean the contaminated area. The exposure of these unhealthy chemicals led to the servicemen developing cancer, blood disorders, heart and lung dysfunction, and other diseases. However, they were denied disability benefits.
One of the Yale students working on the case, Derek Mraz, states, "This class action seeks to compel the VA to acknowledge that veterans at Palomares participated in a radiation-risk activity that would make any radiogenic conditions they developed presumptively service-connected. The VA acknowledges this service connection for many other atomic veterans."
Victor Skaar, Air Force veteran, claims his melanoma and prostate cancer were caused by service-related events in Palomares. Skaar explains he and other military members did not wear protective gear when they responded to the Palomares accident. They were ordered to remove topsoil and hose down buildings and walls, and they followed their instructions.
Now Skaar, 81, says he feels ignored by the government. According to a 2001 report, VA officials found the radiation levels these military men were exposed to in Palomares were "unreasonably high." However, in 2013, this same report was used to qualify Palomares veterans for benefits, but the levels "weren't high enough." The students claim the "2013 conclusion are flawed." This is the first federal appeals court case involving Palomares veterans.
Senator, Richard Blumenthal, of C.N., made this statement, "These veterans were exposed to dangerous radiation while they faithfully served our nation in the cleanup of the hydrogen bomb accident. They deserve a fair and consistent process for determining veterans benefits related to such exposure."