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
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives tonight 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 tonight as part of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. Her legislation 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.
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.
“Tonight, we are one step closer to making sure America’s veterans suffering from the long-term impacts of jet fuel exposure receive the benefits and support they deserve. This step would not have been possible without the advocacy of veterans like William G. Collins, a former U.S. Air Force fire chief from Louisa County living with Parkinson’s disease,” said Spanberger. “This legislation would make sure we have the backs of veterans like Mr. Collins, whose years of constant exposure to jet fuel put him at risk. By requiring the VA to fully understand the health threats associated with these exposures, we can prevent veterans and their families from struggling to keep up with the bills or to receive the service-connection recognition they deserve. These men and women sacrificed so much to keep our nation safe, and we need to keep our promises to them.”
Earlier this year, 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.
The Honoring Our PACT Act would also:
- Expand VA healthcare eligibility to Post-9/11 combat veterans, which includes more than 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans;
- Create a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure;
- Add 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to VA’s list of service presumptions, including hypertension;
- Expand presumptions related to Agent Orange exposure; Includes Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll as locations for Agent Orange exposure;
- Improve VA’s resources and training for toxic-exposed veterans; and
- Set VA and veterans up for success by investing in VA claims processing, VA’s workforce, and VA health care facilities.
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.