The Department of Veterans Affairs will now be forced to identify how many troops have been exposed to radioactive debris stemming from a 1966 plane crash, thanks to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
In January 1966, a B-52 crashed into a KC-135 off the coast of Spain during a refueling mission. As a result, seven airmen were killed, and four others were wounded. The B-52 was carrying four nuclear weapons at the time of the crash, and two of them detonated when they hit the ground near Palomares, Spain. Radioactive plutonium spread over hundreds of acres.
The United States ordered military personnel to the area to collect contaminated debris, soil, and crops to repair the damage. But the personnel were not given any respiratory devices or protective clothing.
Since the mid-1970s, veterans involved in the accident have been trying to petition the VA after illnesses and strange cancers began appearing in those involved in the cleanup. Plaintiffs say that over 1,600 veterans should be eligible for disability benefits due to their toxic exposure. The VA continues to deny their requests by claiming that not enough scientific evidence exists to classify all the health problems as service-related illnesses.