The Department of Veterans Affairs finalized rules in December that will streamline benefits for veterans who were exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and were diagnosed with diseases. The VA has agreed to pay out more than $2 billion in disability benefits.
“We have a responsibility to take care of those who have served our nation and have been exposed to harm as a result of that service,” said VA secretary Robert A. McDonald in a press release. “Establishing a presumption for service at Camp Lejeune will make it easier for those Veterans to receive the care and benefits they earned.”
Fuel, cleaners and degreasers used by military resulted in contaminated drinking water at the Marine Corps installation at Camp Lejeune between the 1950s and late 1980s. The water wells, which were removed from service in 1985, were found to contain toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, including benzene. As a result, hundreds of thousands of veterans were exposed to the chemicals.
Many of them have developed leukemia, aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or Parkinson’s disease.
“This is a very big win for the men and women who have served in uniform and were stationed at Camp Lejeune,” said Dr. Ralph Erickson, the VA’s chief consultant for post-deployment health. “This is the right thing to do for veterans.”
“These veterans have waited far too long,” North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis said. “I look forward to those affected receiving the compensation they deserve and I encourage any veteran who experiences difficulty receiving their disability payment to contact my office immediately.”
“It’s about time, these veterans put their lives on the line for our nation and they were negligently poised by the government,” North Carolina Senator Richard Burr stated. “We know that toxic water at Lejeune caused a host of debilitating medical conditions that service members are suffering and dying from. These men and women deserve this help.”