Forward Observer — Not There Yet, Almost … VA Preparing to Allow Compensation for Camp LeJeune Water Contamination
VA Plans to Issue Regulations for Presumptive Conditions Which Will Expand Disability Benefits Eligibility for Veterans Exposed to Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune
We’ve reported on this previously. While someone located at Camp Lejeune during the period in question could seek and obtain healthcare from the VA, compensation was another matter.
However, on 17 December the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it plans to propose expanded disability compensation eligibility for veterans exposed to contaminated drinking water while assigned to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. From 1953 to 1987, water sources at the base were contaminated with industrial solvents that statistically correlate with certain health conditions.
As a result of discussions between environmental health experts at the Veterans Health Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Secretary McDonald has decided to propose presumptions of service connection for certain conditions. ATSDR had determined: 1) that the drinking water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene, vinyl chloride, benzene and other petroleum contaminants from leaking storage tanks and 2) prolonged exposure to these chemicals increases the risk of certain health conditions.
The conditions involved are:
- Kidney Cancer
- Liver Cancer
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Multiple Myeloma
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Aplastic Anemia/Myelodysplastic Syndromes
Those eligible will also be expanded. Reserve and National Guard personnel who served at Camp Lejeune for any length of time from August 1, 1953, through December 31, 1987 will be included. The need not have been activated at any time. In this instance, they will qualify for VA disability compensation and medical care under the statutory definition of “Veteran.” Their surviving dependents would be eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation and burial benefits.
While the VA goes through the lengthy process to establish regulations which will enable these decisions (it cannot grant any benefit claims currently), it encourages veterans who have a record of service at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987 and developed a condition that they believe is related to exposure to the drinking water at the base to file a disability compensation claim with VA. This will expedite awards later.
Besides, the VA will continue to grant claims for disabilities claimed to be associated with exposure to the contaminants that can be granted under current regulations. However, what will now happen is that if a claim for service connection for one of the proposed presumptive conditions would be denied under current regulations, the denial will be stayed until VA issues its final regulations.
VA will announce when the regulations are final and presumptive benefits can begin to be awarded. For more information on applying for these benefits, click here.
As we have previously reported, veterans who served at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, are already eligible to receive VA healthcare for up to 15 health conditions. More information, including a full list of covered conditions, can be online. To establish eligibility for healthcare benefits (as opposed to compensation), submit a VA Form 10-10EZ online, downloading it at www.va.gov/vaforms/medical/pdf/1010EZ-fillable.pdf and returning it to any VA Medical Center or Clinic, or by calling 1-877-222-VETS (8387), Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM (Eastern Time). However, we strongly advise you see an accredited veterans service officer from a county office of veterans affairs or a veterans organization, first.
VA is reimbursing certain veterans’ family members for eligible out-of-pocket medical expenses related to the 15 covered conditions. More information on this, click here.
As of 17 December