The Congresswoman’s Legislation was Inspired by William G. Collins, a U.S. Air Force Veteran from Louisa County in Virginia’s Seventh District Living with Parkinson’s
VIDEO: On U.S. House of Representatives Floor, Spanberger Shares Stories of Virginia Veterans with Healthcare Challenges Related to Exposures
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives today voted to pass U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s legislation to investigate the long-term, negative health impacts of jet fuel exposure on America’s servicemembers.
Multiple 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 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not currently recognize the service connection.
The Spanberger-led amendment passed in the U.S. House today would press the VA to compile additional research on the negative health impacts of jet fuel exposure. With this additional information, lawmakers would be able to take steps to make sure veterans suffering from diseases due to their exposure to jet fuel receive the VA support and benefits they deserve. Her amendment passed today as part of the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act.
Spanberger’s legislation is drawn from her bipartisan William Collins Jet Fuel Exposure Recognition Act, which she introduced last year. Spanberger named the bill in honor of William G. Collins — a U.S. Air Force veteran and Louisa County resident living with Parkinson’s. The VA does not currently recognize Mr. Collins’ condition as having a service connection.
Ahead of the U.S. House’s passage of the Honoring Our PACT Act, Spanberger spoke on the House floor to highlight the stories of multiple Virginia veterans — including Mr. Collins — who have had long-term challenges related to exposures during their military service.
Click here to watch her remarks, and a full transcript is below.
My commitment to supporting veterans suffering from toxic exposures has been ironclad since I first met the late Michael Lecik — a father, a husband, a firefighter, and a veteran who died of cancer related to his exposures.
And it continued when I met Gillie Jenkins, an Atomic Veteran from Chesterfield, Virginia who — in his nineties — is still fighting for the recognition of his brothers in arms and the sacrifices that they made.
And today, when I rise in support of my amendment to H.R. 3967, I am doing so inspired by William G. Collins, a veteran from Louisa County, Virginia.
My amendment would require the VA to investigate the long-term health impacts of jet fuel exposures on our country’s servicemembers.
Mr. Collins, a veteran from Louisa County, Virginia, is living with Parkinson’s. And as a former Air Force crew fire chief, his years of constant exposure to jet fuel put him at risk.
But now, the VA does not recognize Mr. Collins’ condition as having a service connection.
Mr. Collins served honorably — and he should know that his country has his back. This amendment would bring us one step closer to ensuring that veterans like William have the healthcare benefits they deserve and the acknowledgement of their sacrifice.
Mr. Collins says, “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.”
Today, I urge my colleagues to support this long overdue amendment as we support all of our nation’s veterans.
Spanberger’s legislation builds on her efforts to seek justice and recognition for Virginia veterans suffering from diseases related to toxic exposure.
Last year, she reintroduced her bipartisan bill — the Michael Lecik Military Firefighters Protection Act — to provide veteran firefighters with the fair compensation, healthcare, and retirement benefits they’ve earned through their service.
The bipartisan legislation is named after Powhatan County, Virginia resident Michael Lecik, a former U.S. Air Force firefighter who was twice deployed to the Middle East. Following his military service, Lecik became a civilian firefighter and then became chief fire inspector at U.S. Army Garrison Fort Lee. Lecik passed away in March of last year. In May 2021, Spanberger honored his life on the floor of the U.S. House.
And in December 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law Spanberger’s legislation to recognize America’s Atomic Veterans as part of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.
Due to their exposure to unsafe levels of radiation during their service, many of these Atomic Veterans developed serious health complications. Additionally, as these veterans were sworn to secrecy, many of them were prevented from seeking medical care or disability compensation and were never fully recognized for their sacrifice.
Spanberger’s legislation requires the President to issue a proclamation every year calling on the United States to observe National Atomic Veterans Day. Earlier last year, Spanberger led the introduction of a bipartisan resolution that called on the President to issue a proclamation in observance of National Atomic Veterans Day — which he recognized.
On July 16, 2021, Spanberger spoke alongside Central Virginia veterans on National Atomic Veterans Day to recognize the critical role Atomic Veterans played in protecting the United States. Spanberger was joined by Central Virginia veterans — as well as representatives from the National Association of Atomic Veterans, the American Legion, the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, the Fawn Lake Veterans Group, and the Virginia War Memorial.