Camp Lejeune Water Contamination: VA Benefits
U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is an east coast military base in Jacksonville, North Carolina. It’s currently part of a combined installation with Marine Corps Air Station New River. The training facilities are situated on miles of beach between the deep water ports Morehead City and Wilmington. The base is home to marine expeditionary forces and other units.
Between the early 1950s and late 1980s, individuals at MCB camp Lejeune were exposed to toxic chemicals in drinking water in the residential and training areas.
Veterans who were present at Camp Lejeune during this time period who later developed specific diseases may be eligible for disability compensation. If you were stationed at USMC Base Camp Lejeune, read on.
Camp LeJeune Water Contamination Explained
Over 1 million military personnel and their family members were stationed at the United States Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between 1953 and 1987. During this time, the people living on the base, military service members, and civilians, ingested contaminated drinking water and bathed in water that had been contaminated with chemicals from the base water treatment facilities and a dry cleaning company in the local area. The Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point water treatment plants were among those in question. Personnel were exposed to over 3,000 times the safe exposure limits of toxic chemicals.
Contaminants at Camp Lejeune
Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are the chemicals that caused the contamination. There were two main VOCs initially identified in Camp Lejeune’s water supply, a dry cleaning solvent, and a degreaser. However, later studies showed that there were upwards of 70 other chemicals in the water that caused health risks.
The most prevalent and health-hazardous contaminants found were:
Trichloroethylene and Perchloroethylene
Studies show that TCE and PCE can raise the risk of several cancers, including kidney and liver cancers and some support for Hodgkin’s disease and non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma. There is also a possible association of cervical cancer with TCE exposure. Some data suggest associations between TCE exposure and multiple myeloma and prostate, laryngeal, and colon cancers. There is support for an association between dry cleaning and laundry work (which typically utilize TCE and PCE) and kidney, pancreatic, cervical, esophageal, and lung cancers, and some support for bladder, prostate and colon cancers.
Benzene is listed as a carcinogen, and typically promotes both acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), as well as multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Studies of workers exposed to toluene show an increase in cancer of the lung, breast, esophagus, stomach, colon, and especially the Rectum. In addition, increases in lymphosarcoma, lympholeukaemia and Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkins lymphoma have been seen in workers exposed to toluene.
I’ve discussed vinyl chloride in burn pits and its relation to cancer in previous posts. Exposure to vinyl chloride can cause up to five times higher rates of liver cancer, angiosarcoma, and lung cancer.
While the above toxins were measured in the highest quantities in the water at camp Lejeune, many other toxins were measured that are highly carcinogenic. Some of these include heavy metals, pesticides, assorted polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and others. If there is no research connecting your particular cancer to exposure from the above toxins, there still may be research to support a connection.
VA Health Care for Camp Camp Lejeune Veterans
The VA health care system offers health care options for all qualifying veterans who served at Camp Lejeune, with or without service connection. If a veteran has one of the presumptive conditions listed below, health care is covered; if not, and they are not service-connected, there will be a co-pay, but health care is available through the VA. Healthcare and healthcare reimbursements are also available for family members who lived on the base with their sponsors or children who were born of parents who lived on the base. However, there are restrictions based on the type of condition the veteran has. The VA breaks down Camp Lejeune presumptive conditions in two ways:
- Presumptive for disability compensation
- Presumptive for healthcare for veterans and family members
Presumptive Disability Compensation due to Contaminated Water
The following eight conditions are considered presumptive for veterans (including reservists and National Guard) who were stationed at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, for a minimum of 30 days. Presumptive means the veteran only needs to prove being stationed at Camp Lejeune during the timeframes noted and for the minimum number of days to receive disability benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs; there does not need to be evidence of an in-service injury, treatment, or condition. There does need to be a current diagnosis of one of the presumptive conditions to file a claim.
There are eight presumptive conditions for disability compensation for Camp Lejeune veterans. They are:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
Presumptive for Healthcare for Veterans and Family Members
Veterans and family members can also receive free healthcare for 15 additional presumptive conditions. These health problems and conditions do not qualify for presumptive disability compensation, although veterans with the following health conditions are encouraged to file a claim even if the condition is not presumptive due to the links to the toxins. The conditions include:
- Esophageal cancer
- Breast cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Renal toxicity
- Female infertility
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Lung Cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Myelodysplastic Syndromes
- Hepatic steatosis
- Neurobehavioral effects
If family members who have the above conditions related to their stay at Camp Lejeune and have had past out-of-pocket costs due to medical care (not covered by healthcare such as co-pays or deductibles), they may also be eligible for reimbursement by the VA (family members only). Qualifying family members include those whose sponsor (the qualifying veteran) was on active duty and served at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987; was the spouse or dependent of the veteran during the same period; and lived on the base for 30 days or more between the same dates. This includes the infants born of women pregnant on the base during this period.
What Does This Mean for Veterans and their Families?
The VA Rule 38 CFR 3 effective March 14, 2017 (final rule), added certain presumptive diseases associated with the contaminants associated with Camp Lejeune. The rule also includes former reservists and National Guard members who were at the base for no less than 30 days during the presumptive period.
While there are no provisions for the seven conditions that are not presumptive for veterans for disability compensation, that does not mean that veterans should not file a claim for compensation. The difference is that there will need to be medical evidence to show a link to the disability and the exposure to the toxins, which is not required for the 8 presumptive conditions. Claims filed within one year of the rule or pending will, according to the VA, have an effective date of the ruling or the date of claim, whichever is earlier. Therefore, if a veteran files a claim before March 13, 2018, the effective date of their claim will be retroactive back to March 14, 2017.
If you are not sure if toxin exposure at Camp Lejeune caused your medical condition or toxins at other military installations, please contact us for a review of your case. Our experts can review your medical and service records and determine if the military installations you were assigned to have toxins related to them during the time periods of your assignments and if any conditions you are diagnosed with may be related.
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