A bill before the U.S. House of Representatives has been named for a Louisa County veteran.
Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger is leading an effort to ensure that veterans suffering from neurological disease due to exposure to jet fuel get the support and benefits they deserve from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
According to a release, studies have shown that long-term exposure to jet fuel among veterans can be a significant factor in developing neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease.
However, this service connection is not currently recognized by the VA.
The bill, the William Collins Jet Fuel Exposure Recognition Act, would provide additional opportunities for veterans to claim such a service connection.
The release says it would require the VA to conduct additional medical exams for veterans who served at least two years in a military occupation that involved consistent exposure to jet fuel.
The bill says the VA would need to compile additional research on the negative health impacts of jet fuel exposure, which would then be used to inform the findings of the added medical exams.
This bill is named for William Collins, an Air Force veteran who lives in Louisa County and who has Parkinson’s. The VA does not recognize his condition as being related to his service.
“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 Collins. “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.”
“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.”
Under the legislation, the VA would have to concede that exposure to toxic substances, chemicals and airborne hazards could have consequences for veterans who worked at least two years in a military occupation that involved consistent exposure to jet fuel.
It would also require the VA to provide a medical examination and ask for a medical opinion for service connection for any veteran who meets the above criteria and who submits a claim for compensation for a service-connected disability with evidence of a disability.
Finally, it would also require the VA to produce a public report detailing the health impacts of various types of jet fuel by the length of exposure, identifying symptoms of exposure that may indicate future health risks, provide the chronology of health safeguards implements by the military in order to reduce exposure, and identifying where new research is needed.
To read the full bill, click here.