On January 17, 1966, two U.S. Air Force planes collided over Palomares, Spain. The collision dislodged four hydrogen bombs, which fell to the earth and released clouds of radioactive dust over the Spanish countryside. The Air Force sent approximately 1,600 airmen to Palomares to clean up the accident’s aftermath. The radiation at Palomares poisoned many of the airmen, and caused them to suffer a broad range of health defects in the ensuing decades.

The Veterans Legal Services Clinic represents retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Victor Skaar, a veteran of the Palomares clean-up, as he appeals the Board of Veterans’ Appeals denial of his disability benefits claim before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). Mr. Skaar challenges VA policies on behalf of a proposed class of Palomares veterans, contending that the VA has unlawfully refused to recognize Palomares as a “radiation-risk activity,” and has unlawfully relied on flawed scientific methodology to deny Palomares veterans’ disability benefits claims.

After oral argument before the en banc CAVC on September 25, 2018, the court ordered the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide limited discovery as it considers whether to certify a class of disabled veterans for the first time in its history.

Selected Case Documents

Order for Expedited Limited Remand, February 1, 2019.

Order to Produce Numbers on Palomares Participants and VA Claimants, November 13, 2018.

Appellant’s Reply to the VA’s Response to May 21 Order on Class Questions, August 3, 2018.

Appellant’s Response to May 21 Order on Class Questions, June 20, 2018.

Order for Supplemental Briefing on Class Questions, May 21, 2018.

Brief of Amicus Curiae Friends of the Earth in Support of Appellant, April 13, 2018. 

Appellant’s Motion for Class Certification, December 11, 2017.

Selected Media Clips

Court Orders Disclosure of Information About Veterans Exposed to Radiation, Yale Law School News, November 14, 2018. 

Federal court hears case of Nixa veteran who worked “Broken Arrow” cleanup in 1966, Christian County Headliner News, October 17, 2018.

Lawmaker presses for quicker action to help military clean-up crews of 1966 nuclear accident, Military Times, August 29, 2018.

Half a century after Palomares nuclear accident, a glimpse of justice, El País, Jan. 3, 2018 (versión en español aquí).

Air Force vet who was part of 1966 nuclear cleanup seeks class action lawsuit, The Day, December 11, 2017.