Spanberger presses VA to address effects of jet fuel among American veterans
Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) is leading a bipartisan effort to ensure veterans suffering from neurological diseases due to their exposure to jet fuel receive Department of Veterans Affairs support and benefits they deserve.
Studies show that long-term exposure to jet fuel among veterans can be a significant factor in developing neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease. However, the VA does not currently recognize the service connection.
Spanberger’s William Collins Jet Fuel Exposure Recognition Act would provide veterans additional opportunities to claim this service connection, by requiring the VA to conduct additional medical exams for veterans who served at least two years in a military occupation involving consistent exposure to jet fuel. Spanberger’s bipartisan bill would also press the VA to compile additional research on the negative health impacts of jet fuel exposure, which will then be used to inform the findings of these examinations.
The legislation is named after William G. Collins — a U.S. Air Force veteran and Louisa County resident living with Parkinson’s. The VA does not recognize Collins’ condition as having a service connection.
“Working as an Air Force Crew Chief before the implementation of safety protocols, I quickly learned the look, smell, and even taste of jet fuel. At the time, my exposure resulted in frequent headaches and sleep apnea. Years later, I have learned my jet fuel exposure also put me at risk for what has become the greatest challenge of my life — my fight against Parkinson’s,” said William G. Collins, Louisa County, Virginia. “This disease has impacted my health, my economic security, and potentially my wife and I’s dream of spending our last years on our beloved farm where we raised our family. Unfortunately, the Veterans Administration has refused to recognize the service connection between my service and my disease, with this refusal also extending to several other veterans in my community-based Parkinson’s support group. We deserve our country’s support in fighting a disease that we incurred while serving our country. I thank Representative Spanberger for introducing this bill to help ensure that I, and veterans like me, receive the support we have earned.”
“Veterans like William Collins — a Virginian who proudly served his country and devoted his career to protecting our skies — deserve the strongest possible support we can provide. As we learn more about the serious health effects of jet fuel exposure, we need to make sure the VA takes every measure it can to protect those who are suffering from major and often debilitating neurological conditions as a result of their service,” said Spanberger. “By bringing greater awareness to this issue and directing the VA to treat jet fuel exposure with the serious attention it requires, this bipartisan bill would help provide additional peace of mind to thousands of additional American veterans and their families. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address this issue further, and it is my honor to introduce this bill in Mr. Collins’ name.”
“As VA and DoD learn more about the medical conditions associated with the toxic exposure to jet fuel, VA can continue to provide quality health care for our veterans, while DoD can implement preventative safeguards to protect our service members,” said William Shugarts, Director, Fawn Lake Veterans Group. “Therefore, this legislation is both timely and necessary for our service members and for our veterans.”
“Unfortunately, the veterans’ community is all too familiar with lengthy delays in the codification of presumptive medical conditions associated with toxic exposures dating back to decades,” said Steve Robertson, long-time veterans’ advocate. “Look how long it took to get presumptive medical conditions for exposure to herbicides, such as Agent Orange, as three new medical conditions were added last Congress — over four decades later. Medical studies take much longer than the manifestation of medical conditions exposed veterans must live with, be treated for, and/or die from. Clearly, time is on the side of medical researchers and not the individual veteran.”
“The requirement of the VA to provide a medical examination and request a medical opinion for service connection for any veteran that meets the above criteria and submits a claim for compensation for a service-connected disability with evidence of a disability is an important step in ensuring the health of our service members through the identification of their impacts,” said Michael J. Little, Founder, Sea Service Family Foundation. “On behalf of the Association of the United States Armed Services, we would like to pledge our support for H.R 3852, the William Collins Jet Fuel Exposure Recognition Act.”
Specifically, the William Collins Exposure Act would:
- Direct the VA to have a concession of exposure to toxic substances, chemicals, and airborne hazards for those veterans who worked at least two years in a military occupation involving consistent exposure to jet fuel.
- Require the VA provide a medical examination and request a medical opinion for service connection for any veteran who meets the above criteria and submits a claim for compensation for a service-connected disability with evidence of a disability.
- Require the VA to produce a public report detailing the health impacts of various types of jet fuels by length of exposure, identifying immediate symptoms of jet fuel exposure that may indicate future health risks, providing the chronology of health safeguards implemented by the military meant to reduce the soldier’s exposure to jet fuel, and identifying where new research needs to be done.
Spanberger introduced the bipartisan bill alongside Don Bacon (R-NE-02).