VA to Pay Medical Care|for Lejeune Families

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Veterans Administration will provide for medical care for military families and service members exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune in the 1950s through 80s, according to a regulation issued Wednesday.
     The water supply at the Marine Corps base in North Carolina was contaminated with more than 70 toxic chemicals beginning by at least 1953.
     Members of the military and their families drank and bathed in the water, which was later found to contain unsafe levels of toxic dry cleaning solvents and degreasers, among other chemicals.
     The VA regulation providing medical care attributes 15 illnesses, including several types of cancer, infertility, miscarriage, and neurobehavioral effects to the toxic water.
     There have been a number of lawsuits and government investigations involving the contamination in recent years.
     In August 2012, President Barack Obama signed into law the Janey Ensminger Act, named after a 9-year-old girl who died of leukemia in 1985 after living on base at Camp Lejeune.
     The act makes medical care available for veterans and their families who were stationed at Camp Lejeune at times when the water was contaminated with carcinogens.
     The Department of Veterans Affairs issued two regulations related to compensation and medical care for those affected by the contaminated water at the military base.
     In an interim regulation, the VA implemented rules that would provide payment or reimbursement for medical care for veterans’ family members who lived at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between 1957 and 1987.
     Before receiving help from the VA, however, the family members must exhaust all claims and remedies reasonably available to them against a third party, including health-plan contracts.
     The VA is covering 15 illnesses, including several types of cancer, infertility, miscarriage, and neurobehavioral effects.
     The VA said it would give the benefit of the doubt to veterans and their families regarding treatment, under the rule.
     “When the best scientific evidence available at the time limits VA’s ability to attribute the family member’s condition to a specific cause, VA will assume the condition or illness was caused by exposures while at Camp Lejeune, and thus will provide payment to providers or reimbursement to Camp Lejeune family members provided they meet all other requirements under this rule.”
     In a related regulation, the VA implemented a statutory mandate to provide medical care to veterans who meet the same criteria as the family members’ residing at Camp Lejeune.
     Comments on the interim regulation for family members are due by Nov. 24, and the rule is effective on Oct. 24. The rule for veterans becomes effective Sept. 24.

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