Veterans who were exposed to contaminated drinking water while stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between 1953 and 1987 have been waiting for many years to receive some sort of payback for being poisoned by contaminated water.
Outgoing VA Secretary Bob McDonald determined that there was “sufficient scientific and medical evidence” to establish a connection between exposure to the contaminated water and eight medical conditions for purposes of awarding disability compensation. The VA estimates that around 900,000 service members were potentially exposed to the tainted water.
Starting in March, cash pay-outs totalling more than $2 billion from the Department of Veterans Affairs may supplement VA health care already being provided to eligible veterans. Those claiming the benefits will have to prove that they were stationed at Camp Lejeune for a minimum of 30 cumulative days between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987 and will also have to submit evidence of their diagnoses and service information.
The ruling under which payments will be made covers Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard Members who developed one of eight diseases: Adult Leukaemia, Aplastic Anaemia, Bladder Cancer, Kidney Cancer, Liver Cancer, Multiple Myeloma, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Parkinson ’s disease.
According to retired Marine Master Sgt Jerry Ensminger, whose daughter Janey was born in 1976 while he was stationed at the military base and died from leukaemia at age 9, it is good news, but he also says that the government has not gone far enough and need to go further in covering additional diseases. Ensminger heads a veterans group; The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten, which advocates for those seeking disability compensation.
The court ruling came down after veterans groups over the years uncovered documents suggesting that Marine leaders responded too slowly when tests first showed evidence of contaminated ground water at Camp Lejeune in the early 1980s. Some drinking water wells were closed in 1984-85 when more testing confirmed contamination from leaking fuel tanks and an off-base dry cleaner.