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Veteran Sickened By Plutonium After H-Bomb Accident Brings Class Action Suit

U.S. National Archive Record Administration via AP
An unidentified U.S. soldier looks through the material found after a U.S. B-52 bomber crashed with a tanker plane during aerial refuelling in 1966, causing four hydrogen bombs to fall to earth in Palomares, Spain.

When two Air Force planes collided in 1966, they released hydrogen bombs that sprinkled plutonium all over the Spanish countryside. Victor Skaar and nearly 1,600 service members got sick after cleaning the spill.

Skaar and Yale Law School interns have now filed what could be the first nationwide class action lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims in Washington D.C., the highest court that handles disability benefits in the VA.

Meghan Brooks, a law student at Yale’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic, says the VA fails to recognize that radiation exposure caused Skaar’s blood disorder and cancer.

“For the most part these veterans really feel like they’ve been forgotten. Not just by the public, but especially by the VA.”

Brooks says if the lawsuit is allowed to move forward, then it would affect everyone who has filed a disability benefits claim related to the Palomares incident. She says the VA wants to oppose the motion for class action.

Cassandra Basler, a former senior editor at WSHU, came to the station by way of Columbia Journalism School in New York City. When she's not reporting on wealth and poverty, she's writing about food and family.