LEJEUNE VET CLAIMS TO BE APPROVED FASTER FOR EIGHT ILLNESS
The Marine Corps has begun outreach to hundreds of thousands of veterans who served at Camp Lejeune, N.C., at least 30 days from August 1953 to December 1987, inviting them or surviving spouses to file for VA compensation if veterans suffered one of eight ailments linked to water contamination on the base.
On Wednesday March 22, the Corps sent an email “blast” to more than 120,000 Lejeune veterans who had shared current online addresses on a registry created to identify and educate potential victims of polluted drinking water at Lejeune over a 34-year period, in an era that ended 30 years ago.
The email explained that veterans who can show they served at Lejeune from Aug. 1, 1953, to Dec. 31, 1987, for 30 days or more, are now eligible to file fast-track VA disability compensation claims for eight conditions. The “presumptive” ailments for Lejeune vets are: adult leukemia; aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes; bladder cancer; kidney cancer; liver cancer; multiple myeloma; non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; Parkinson’s disease.
The Marine Corps will follow its email blast with a postal mailing of 200,000 over the next several weeks to home addresses on file with the Camp Lejeune Historic Drinking Water website: https://clnr.hqi.usmc.mil/clwater/Home.aspx .
Mailing will advise veterans and survivors that medical science affirms a strong association between compounds that leached into drinking water at Lejeune and the eight ailments. On March 14, a final VA regulation accelerated the processing of qualifying for disability pay. Even drilling reservists who spent weekends and annual training at Lejeune, also for a total of at least 30 days, will be found eligible for VA compensation if they have one of the presumptive ailments.
If Lejeune veterans died from any of the ailments, their surviving spouses or children will see claims for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) fast tracked too, under the accelerated process established for Lejeune victims.
Years ago, studies confirmed that Lejeune water had been contaminated by benzene, vinyl chloride and two volatile organic compounds -- trichloroethylene (TCE), a metal degreaser, and perchloroethylene (PCE), a dry-cleaning agent.
In 2012 Congress passed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act, which opened VA medical care to Lejeune vets diagnosed with one of 15 ailments linked to the pollutants. Because family members aren’t eligible for VA care, the law made VA payer-of-last-resort for Lejeune family members diagnosed with one of the 15 illnesses if their employer or family health insurance fails to cover all treatment costs or they have no insurance.
By December 2015, then-VA Secretary Bob McDonald vowed to use his secretarial authority to review the science again and begin to compensating Lejeune vets for disabling conditions most associated with the tainted water. A year later, VA published an interim rule that found eight of the original 15 conditions having a strong association to chemical exposures at Lejeune.
A VA technical workgroup led the comprehensive reviews of evidence, working with the Department of Health and Human Service’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, explained Bradley Flohr, senior adviser for the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Compensation Service, in a phone interview.
“We reviewed medical [and] scientific reports of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Toxicology Program and Environmental Protection Agency, which looked at these contaminants and the potential for development of diseases,” he said.
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