Veterans May Receive Contamination Benefits

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Department of Veteran Affairs wants mandated health care for veterans who were exposed to contaminated water while serving at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, the agency has announced.
     In the early 1980’s, two water-supply systems on the U.S. Marine Corps base were found to be contaminated with trichloroethylene, a metal degreaser, and perchloroethylene, a dry cleaning agent, as well as benzene, vinyl chloride and other compounds. The water systems were contaminated for over 30 years, between August 1957 and December 1987, according to the VA’s action.
     Some of the chemicals were linked to an off-base dry-cleaning business, which has since closed, but the cause of contamination is also the result of industrial waste practices of the Marine Corps itself, and leaking fuel storage tanks, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.
     A 2010 Congressional hearing on the issue revealed that at least 1 million gallons of benzene alone leaked into drinking water at the base.
     A study by the U.S. Navy estimates that, “between 1988 and 1991 there was as much as 1.1 million gallons of gasoline floating on top of the groundwater table at Camp Lejeune. The report noted: ‘While this estimated volume seems incredibly large, it must be remembered that this took place over 50 years, yielding an average loss of over 21,200 gallons/year (or 58 gallons/day).'”
     The VA now wants to mandate health care for veterans with diseases connected to the contamination of the out of service wells. The diseases include esophageal cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, Leukemia, multiple myeloma, myleodysplasic syndromes, renal toxicity, hepatic steatosis, female infertility, miscarriage, scleroderma, neurobehavioral effect and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
     The proposed regulation would implement a provision of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012.
     “Among other things, section 102 of the act amended [federal regulations] to require VA to provide hospital care and medical services, for certain specified illnesses and conditions, to veterans who served at the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, while on active duty in the armed forces for at least 30 days during the period beginning on Jan. 1, 1957, and ending on Dec. 31, 1987,” according to the action.
     The VA noted that copayments for benefits would not apply to these veterans.
     Comments are due by October 11.

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