In 1966, a United States Air Force B-52 bomber collided with a tanker aircraft over Palomares, Spain, causing four thermonuclear weapons to fall to the ground. The collision resulted in the release of four U.S. hydrogen bombs. The weapons were not detonated but were damaged, releasing radioactive materials. Radiation cancer claims are related to such events.
Around 1,600 military and civilian personnel were tasked with cleaning up the nuclear site, exposing them to airborne dust and debris contaminated with plutonium. For many years after, the Air Force stated that “adverse acute health effects were neither expected nor observed, and long-term risks for increased incidence of cancer to the bone, liver and lungs [the target organs for plutonium] were low.”
But many veterans who were on site were later diagnosed with various cancers and diseases. Veterans may now file a claim for disability compensation for health problems related to participating in the cleanup effort at the Palomares nuclear accident site. The VA decides these claims on an individual case-by-case basis.
Joe Lyon is a highly-rated VA claims filing VA cancer disability claims on behalf of veterans exposed to radiation while in service.
Veteran Radiation Exposure
If there is evidence of VA radiation exposure, certain diseases may qualify for service connection disability benefits. The VA only recognizes certain diseases related to ionizing radiation exposure during military service.
For Veterans who participated in a radiation-risk activity during service like the Palomares, Spain nuclear cleanup (including “Atomic Veterans”), VA assumes that certain cancers are related to their exposure. The presumptive diseases include the following:
- Cancers of the bile ducts
- Bone cancers
- Brain cancer
- Breast cancer
- Colon cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Gall bladder cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer (including bronchiolo-alveolar cancer)
- Pancreatic cancer
- Pharynx Cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Salivary gland cancer
- Intestinal cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Urinary tract Cancers (kidney/renal, pelvis, urinary bladder, and urethra)
- Lymphomas (except Hodgkin’s disease)
- Multiple myeloma
Military Service-Related Diseases
Some Veterans don’t have to prove a connection between these diseases and their service to be eligible for disability compensation. The VA recognizes that the following diseases are possibly caused by exposure to ionizing radiation:
- All cancers
- Non-malignant thyroid nodular disease
- Parathyroid adenoma
- Posterior subcapsular cataracts
- Tumors of the brain and central nervous system
VA also considers the possibility that other unlisted diseases were caused by radiation, if supported by medical evidence. To be eligible for compensation, VA must be able to establish that it is at least as likely as not that a Veteran’s disease was caused by his/her exposure to radiation during military service.
VA presumes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) diagnosed in all Veterans who had 90 days or more continuous active military service is related to their service, although ALS is not related to radiation exposure.
VA Cancer Benefits
Surviving spouses, dependent children and dependent parents of Veterans who were exposed to radiation during military service and died as the result of diseases related to the exposure may be eligible for survivors’ VA cancer benefits as well.
Veterans who develop certain diseases following radiation exposure released during atmospheric nuclear weapons tests may be eligible for compensation under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).