Benefits May Be Coming to Marines Exposed to Tainted Water

Posted on Sep 15, 2015

Marines who served for 30 days or more at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 and are suffering from certain health problems may be "greenlighted" for VA disability benefits.

Scientific evidence shows that some drinking water wells on the base were contaminated from leaking fuel tanks and an off-base dry cleaner.  According to VA estimates, as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to the tainted water and many are suffering from severe and sometimes deadly health issues. The VA announced last month they will begin the process of granting presumptive disability status, meaning veterans who say they were affected by the water will get the benefit of the doubt as long as they meet eligibility requirements.

According to a VA press release, “The diseases that are currently being reviewed for potential presumptive service connection include kidney cancer, angiosarcoma of the liver, and acute myelogenous leukemia, which are known to be related to long-term exposure to the chemicals that were in the water at Lejeune from the 1950s through 1987.  The chemicals are Benzene, Vinyl Chloride, Trichloroethylene and Perchloroethylene, which are known as volatile organic compounds, used in industrial solvents and components of fuels.”  The VA also announced it will provide reimbursement of healthcare expenses to eligible family members who lived at Camp Lejeune during that time period. "The scientific research is strong and the widespread denials of benefits will soon end," Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) told The New York Times. "Now, these veterans and their families members will not have to fight for benefits they are due."

 Critics say Marine leaders were too slow to respond to this dangerous situation. The first evidence that ground water at the base was contaminated surfaced in the early 1980s. Some wells were closed but not until 1984 and 1985. 

 For more information, Veterans and family members should contact the nearest VA healthcare facility by calling 1–877–222–VETS (8387) or visit www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/camp-lejeune.

For further information on Camp Lejeune: VHA Office of Public Health has a Website on Camp Lejeune historical water contamination at: www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/camp-lejeune/index.asp.

The U.S. Marine Corps encourages all those who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune before 1987 to register for notifications regarding Camp Lejeune Historic Drinking Water at https://clnr.hqi.usmc.mil/clwater.

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Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska