Wheelchair-bound Navy Lieutenant retires

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- WUSA9 first brought you the story of Lt. Steve Simmons in January, 2014. Simmons served on the USS Ronald Reagan during the March 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant.

In March, 2011, eight months later, he started feeling sick. Now, Simmons is confined to a wheelchair, with no use of his leg muscles. The 36-year-old blames radiation, but says no one will agree.

Today marked his bittersweet retirement from the Navy. It should be a day to celebrate, but to Simmons, it is a day that came way too soon.

Simmons used to be very active. He played golf and was a P90X enthusiast. But, months after he returned from the humanitarian effort at Fukushima, he blacked out one day while driving. Then, he started experiencing high fevers. His health deteriorated to the point that he his now confined to a wheelchair. He blames radiation exposure at Fukushima. The incident has been called the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

The retirement ceremony was a bittersweet day for the husband and father, who says he just wants someone to admit he was exposed to unsafe radiation levels. "My career was cut short, due to no fault of mine, no fault of the Navy, and now I've got to focus somewhere else and try to think about the new normal, if it's really normal," he said.

All along this journey, Simmons has struggled for a diagnosis, he even struggled to get to this day, fighting to retire with fair compensation. All because he says no one can pinpoint radiation poisoning. He says he wanted to serve for many years to come, "The Navy was my life. Now, that's gone, that's something that I'll never have again."

The Department of Defense says radiation levels were safe, and were the equivalent to less than a month's exposure to the same natural radiation you pick up from being near rocks, soil and the sun. Steve does not buy that, "How do you take a ship and place it into a nuclear plume for five plus hours, how do you suck up nuclear contaminated waste into the water filtration system and think for one minute that there's no health risk to anybody on board."

Attorney Paul Garner is representing more than 70 sailors from the Reagan who are now experiencing medical issues, including Simmons. He says the Tokyo Electric Power Plant (TEPCO) who owns the plant misled the U.S., "I think TEPCO lied to the world, and our government sent these people in there on a humanitarian mission without consideration of whether or not they were sending these people into a zone where they had a nuclear explosion."


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