Camp Lejeune Update: PACT Act Passes, Help for Veterans Incoming!

On Tuesday evening, the United States Senate voted for the second time to finally pass long-sought bipartisan legislation that would actively expand health care benefits for millions of Veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits during their military service.

The passing of this bill marks the emphatic ending to a considerably lengthy fight to get legislation past Congress.

An 86-11 vote was the outcome of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, more commonly known as the PACT Act, and came to fruition in less than a week from when the bill collapsed in the Senate.

That failure prompted widespread protests and an around-the-clock vigil, that was set up and watched by Veterans and their family members outside of the U.S. Capitol building.

The bill will now head to President Joe Biden’s desk, where he’s expected to sign it soon.

The PACT Act will expand health care and benefits to post-9/11 Veterans that were exposed to burn pits used in both Iraq and Afghanistan (and other locations) to incinerate trash and environmental hazards – such as deadly organic compounds, depleted uranium, and petrochemicals.

The bill states that over 20 diseases are presumed to be linked to military service, it also removes a requirement that afflicted Veterans and their survivors, forcing them to prove service connection for 11 different and specific types of respiratory conditions and several types of cancer, inclusive of:

  • Reproductive Cancers.

  • Melanoma.

  • Pancreatic Cancer.

  • Kidney Cancer.

  • Brain Cancers.

According to an official White House press release, survivors of Veterans who died due to any of these conditions may now also be eligible for benefits.

In addition to expanding the benefits available to post-9/11 Veterans, the agreement announced Wednesday expands coverage for Vietnam-era Veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

Specifically, it would add Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnson Atoll to the list of places that are now applicable for coverage.

Click here to view the new VA page about the PACT Act.

Camp Lejeune
Comedian and activist Jon Stewart speaks during a rally on August 1st, 2022 to call on the Senate to pass a bill to expand health care benefits for Veterans.

Camp Lejeune and the PACT Act

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act (H.R. 2192) is a bill that allows Veterans, family members, non-military civilian workers, contractors, and any other people who either lived or worked at Camp Lejeune to file claims to recover damages for harm from prolonged exposure to a contaminated water supply.

This took place between August 1st, 1953, and December 31st, 1987. This is not the first time that the toxic water supply at Camp Lejeune has made headlines.

In 2010, the wife of a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune filed the first lawsuit over the water supply – Laura Jones, the plaintiff, was sadly diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

In 2021, former President Barack Obama signed into law H.R. 1627., The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Act of 2012 worked to grant benefits to service members who were unfortunately exposed to toxic water at the base.

In 2017, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced a list of presumptive diseases and conditions that are linked to Camp Lejeune. This list spurred an influx of claims from Veterans, but sadly, many people were denied the compensation that they deserved.

Because the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was folded into the PACT Act, its approval now allows anyone who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more, between 1953 and 1987 and was exposed to the contaminated water can file a claim against the United States government.

The bill specifically asserts that the United States government is prohibited from asserting any immunity from litigation in response to any future lawsuits.

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination History

For decades, the military actively allowed carcinogens and other pollutants to reach the water supply at Camp Lejeune. The source of the contamination was found to be a dry-cleaning facility, industrial spills, waste disposal sites and leaking underground storage tanks.

The contaminated water wells were not shut down until 1985.

Studies on the effects of the water at Camp Lejeune found that there was “sufficient evidence” which pointed to chemicals in the water causing kidney cancer, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, cardiac defects, bladder cancer, liver cancer and Leukemia, among other types of cancer and diseases.

In 2014, a study compared the rate of mortality of Navy and Marine Veterans from Camp Lejeune to that of those who served at Camp Pendleton from 1975 to 1985.

The study found that personnel at Camp Lejeune during that period had developed an increased risk of death related to cancers of the cervix, esophagus, kidney, and liver, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.

Camp Lejeune water was also linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer, kidney cancer and kidney disease according to a study conducted in 2018.

The Department of Veterans Affairs now offers disability benefits as well as health benefits to active duty, Reservists, and National Guard members who served at Camp Lejeune for at least thirty days between 1953 and 1987 and who left the service under conditions other than a dishonorable discharge.

VA Disability Benefits:

The VA (Veterans Affairs) also now acknowledges a presumptive service connection for Veterans who served at Camp Lejeune during the dates above and developed any of the following:

  • Adult Leukemia

  • Aplastic Anemia

  • Bladder Cancer

  • Kidney Cancer

  • Liver Cancer

  • Multiple Myeloma

  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

  • Parkinson’s Disease

If you served at Camp Lejeune and have contracted an illness that is not listed above, you may also be eligible for disability benefits. You would need to present evidence of the medical link between your condition and your exposure on base.

VA Health Benefits:

The VA (Veterans Affairs) offers health care benefits for Veterans and families of Camp Lejeune for these conditions:

  • Bladder Cancer

  • Breast Cancer

  • Esophageal Cancer

  • Female Infertility

  • Hepatic Steatosis

  • Kidney Cancer

  • Leukemia

  • Lung Cancer

  • Miscarriage

  • Multiple Myeloma

  • Myelodysplastic Syndrome

  • Neurobehavioral Effects

  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

  • Renal Toxicity

  • Scleroderma

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