Monday, January 4, 2021

VA Must Re-Examine Policy on Vets Exposed to Radiation, Court Says


A half-century ago, Air Force veteran Victor Skaar and hundreds of other troops were exposed to radiation when they responded to a Cold War-era accident in rural Spain involving lost nuclear weapons, a nightmare situation known best by its code name: Broken Arrow.

In December, a federal court demanded the Department of Veterans Affairs re-examine its longstanding policy that has for decades prevented the troops from getting compensation for cancers and illnesses they allege came about from their response to the accident, which spread radioactive debris.

The decision means the department can no longer rely on what the court determined is incomplete science to deny claims, while forcing veterans to provide overwhelming scientific proof to secure claims. Currently, the VA denies Mr. Skaar and others health and compensation benefits related to their claims—including health care at no cost, a benefit typically reserved for those with disabilities connected to their service.

“Such an interpretation would lead to absurd results, something courts should avoid,” the court wrote in its opinion.


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