VA May Establish Presumptive-Disability Status for Camp Lejeune Illnesses
It may soon be much easier for suffering veterans to access benefits for illnesses related to service at Camp Lejeune. The Veterans Administration recently announced that it is beginning the process of amending its regulations to establish presumptive status for certain diseases linked to certain chemical contaminants that were in the base’s drinking water. Presumptive status would mean that a veteran need not prove exposure caused the disease, but instead could access benefits simply by demonstrating service at Camp Lejeune within the prescribed time frame.
The diseases the VA is considering include kidney cancer, angiosarcoma of the liver and acute myelogenous leukemia, which have established links to the chemicals benzene, vinyl chloride, trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene. A study from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) also suggests a strong causal link between the contaminated water and the onset of male breast cancer. The VA plans to work with ATSDR to evaluate the body of scientific knowledge related to the chemicals in question and the diseases they potentially cause. The VA also pledges to consider all public comments made during the review period.
The fight for Camp Lejeune benefits has been waged for decades, but finally saw a significant victory in 2012 with the passage of the Janey Ensminger Act, named for a Camp Lejeune Master Sergeant’s daughter whose death at age eight was later linked to the base’s tainted water. That federal law provides no-cost health benefits for 15 qualifying conditions to Camp Lejeune veterans who served there for 30 days or more between 1953 and 1987. However, that law did nothing for civilian workers at the base who were exposed to the same water.
We urge veterans who are suffering from diseases they believe are related to service at Camp Lejeune to be vocal during the public comment period. Let the VA and your congressional representatives hear your story. Any presumptive status granted will be specific to the diseases the VA chooses. If you remain silent about your condition, you could get left behind.
If you are a Camp Lejeune veteran or family member, and you’ve been denied VA benefits, the accredited veterans’ benefits attorneys at Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban can help. Call us from anywhere in the nation at 866-866-VETS or contact our office online.