U.S. Air Force veteran Edward Feeley, a member of the Skaar class, was among the approximately 1,400 U.S. service members sent to clean up the radioactive plutonium debris at Palomares. Mr. Feeley and the other Palomares veterans spent weeks living amidst the radioactive debris, cleaning it up without adequate protective equipment. Now, more than 50 years later, Mr. Feeley and many other Palomares veterans suffer from illnesses that VA already recognizes as radiogenic for survivors of other nuclear events.
Under 38 C.F.R. § 3.309, veterans of recognized “radiation-risk activities” with one of these listed medical conditions receive presumptive service connection. Even though Palomares veterans received higher radiation doses of radiation than veterans at many recognized events, and even though civilian Department of Energy employees who buried barrels of contaminated Palomares soil stateside enjoy a presumption of exposure to radiogenic materials, VA has excluded Palomares from its “radiation-risk activities” list.
Mr. Feeley has asked the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to allow him to represent all veterans who would be entitled to presumptive service connection if VA recognized Palomares as a “radiation-risk activity.” Many modern federal agencies aggregate individual claims in appropriate cases, but Mr. Feeley’s motion is likely the first such request made to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
Selected Case Documents
Motion for Aggregation, June 29, 2021
“Clinic Files Motion for Veteran Exposed to Radiation,” Yale Law School, July 1, 2021.
The Board denied the motion to aggregate and separate requests for subpoenas, but by decision dated September 21, 2022 granted service connection in recognition of Mr. Feeley’s radiation exposure during the Palomares clean-up.