CAMP LEJEUNE WATER ISSUE

  • 25 Aug 2018 10:21 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In the autumn of 1980, a contractor showed up to grade a parking lot. He had no idea he was about to start digging up the radioactive bodies of dead beagles. But the forked bucket on his bulldozer started pulling up more than soil, and it turned out he was digging in a pit of strontium-90 and dog carcasses that had been buried in an ash-gray tomb: a nest of dead dogs and laboratory waste labeled "Radioactive Poison."

    The new parking lot was on the site of the former Naval Research Laboratory dump and its associated incinerator in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina-and it was just one of many areas contaminated by an assortment of hazardous waste and chemicals on the base.

    About half a mile away from the dump, soon to be known as Site 19, my friends and I were living in our neighborhood, called Paradise Point. We spent our time putting other girls' bras into freezers at slumber parties, playing the Telephone Game, riding our bikes all over the place: to the golf course to steal a cart, to swim at the pool, to play soccer on Saturdays.

    During the same autumn the dead beagles were found, I was sitting in front of a fake backdrop of rusty colored leaves, a slight 11-year-old girl with spaces between my teeth and freckles spritzed across my nose and cheeks, to take my school photo.

    Under normal circumstances, this entirely unremarkable fifth-grade photo, in a plaid shirt and fragile gold necklace, would have likely ended up where most school photos do, in an old album or a drawer or simply lost to time. Instead, the photo would become a marker in the medical history of my family and my community, a reminder of the crime that was being committed on the day the photo was taken-and also for decades before, and for years after.

    The place was Camp Lejeune, a United States Marine Corps base wrapped around the New River in Onslow County that served as an amphibious training base where Marines learned to be "the world's best war fighters," picking up skills that would allow them (for example) to make surprise landings on the shores of far away countries. From the 1950s until at least 1985, the drinking water was contaminated with toxic chemicals at levels 240 to 3400 times higher than what is permitted by safety standards.

    There may never be a true accounting of the suffering caused at Lejeune. As with many other hometown environmental disasters, the Marines and family members poisoned on this military base were not born here, nor did they settle here to make a permanent life and raise their children. Instead, they were often here just for a short time, literally stationed at Lejeune for weeks, months, or, at most, a few years. From the 1950s through at least 1985, an undetermined number of of residents, including infants, children, and civilian workers and personnel, were exposed to trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), vinyl chloride, and other contaminants in the drinking water at the Camp Lejeune. These exposures likely increased their risk of cancers, including renal cancer, multiple myeloma, leukemias, and more. It also likely increased their risk of adverse birth outcomes, along with other negative health effects. Now the sick and the dying are all over the world, and an untold number will never be notified about what happened. Instead, we are left to rely on scientific models and data trickling out of public-health agencies and the slow process of adding one story at a time, person-by-person, to the cold data representing an environmental and public-health disaster.

    In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency placed 236 square miles of North Carolina's coastal soil and water on the list of toxic areas known as Superfund sites. The agency cited "contaminated groundwater, sediment, soil and surface water resulting from base operations and waste handling practices" as reasons for including it on the National Priorities List.

    Camp Lejeune remains a sprawling Superfund site, and it is also the place where my mom and I spent years drinking a terrible mix of chemicals from our faucet. In the book A Trust Betrayed: The Untold Story of Camp Lejeune, author Mike Magner gives special attention to my mother's story: "A woman with the ironic name of Mary Freshwater may have had the most ghastly experiences at Camp Lejeune."

    Of course, I share her ironic name, which can still seem like more of a curse. Nearly my entire childhood was consumed by tragedy. The chemical contamination can be linked to the deaths of my two baby brothers, Rusty and Charlie, and to my mom's own difficult final years, when she was dying from two types of acute leukemia. My mother also suffered from mental illness, which was intensified-understandably-by our family's brutal losses. Sometimes it seems that, behind me, there is nothing but inescapable grief.

    My middle school was called Tarawa Terrace II, named for the famous World War II Battle of Tarawa. I rode a Marine-green bus every day instead of a yellow one, on a base that had expanded during World War II to claim rivers, creeks, swamps, and mile after mile of Atlantic oceanfront.

    Early in the unfolding tragedy, the Army sent a note to Marine leadership about water-testing results. It was sent the same month that my mother wrote on the back of my fifth-grade photo: October, 1980. Army Laboratory Service Chief William Neal scrawled on the bottom of the lab results: "Water is highly contaminated with low molecular weight halogenated hydrocarbons."

    The U.S. Army lab (USAEHA) from Fort McPherson conducted water testing on samples taken from the Hadnot Point water distribution system. USAEHA Army Laboratory Service Chief William Neal warned Navy officials with a handwritten caption at the bottom of the lab results: "Water is highly contaminated with low molecular weight halogenated hydrocarbons."

    It was an early warning about the drinking water on the base. But the Marines didn't take any action that month or the next, and even after several warnings-including another handwritten note that exclaimed merely "Solvents!"-the Marine Corps waited five years to start shutting down contaminated wells. After that first memo, issued only days before the radioactive beagles were found, the poisoned drinking water kept flowing for several more years.

    Camp Lejeune has been characterized as a candidate for the worst water contamination case in U.S. history-and I am one of up to a million people who were poisoned. The tragedy, though, is hardly all in the past.

    According to the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), the military's failures are continuing today; mistakes are being repeated at our bases overseas, and, in foreign cases, it took a whistleblower to prompt action on contaminated water. A 2013 investigative report produced by the Navy inspector general, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, reveals "shortfalls in the oversight and management of drinking water for Navy personnel stationed overseas-even in wealthy, developed countries." The report concludes that "not a single Navy overseas drinking water system meets U.S. compliance standards" or the Navy's own governing standards," according to POGO.

    How the Water Became Toxic

    An important part of Marine culture is always being squared away-a code of personal cleanliness and etiquette that requires a pressed and starched uniform and a lot of shoe polishing. One of the dry cleaners that the Marines frequented to service their uniforms was ABC Cleaners, which operated out of a small, red- and white-painted building just across the highway from the base. Word traveled fast that they had the lowest prices, but the business produced more than money. Like any dry-cleaning outfit, it also produced tons of waste from the solvent used to clean the uniforms. According to a court deposition, ABC Cleaners used two to three 55-gallon drums of the solvent a month. That's about three gallons of muck a day.

    This dry-cleaning business is across the street from the entrance to my school. The owner used the toxic muck to fill potholes in his parking lot, and threw the rest into the drains.

    In other areas on the base, waste was generated and discarded into empty lots, forests, roads, waterways, and makeshift dumps. That toxic waste was then taken by the Carolina rains and summer thunderstorms down toward sea level, into water wells, and into the barracks, houses, trailers, offices, and schools-and finally into the bodies of thousands of Marines and their families: into our cells, into our bones.

    In 2014, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), issued a position on the water at Camp Lejeune. The ATSDR found that "past exposures from the 1950s through February 1985 to trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), vinyl chloride, and other contaminants in the drinking water at the Camp Lejeune likely increased the risk of cancers."

    In addition to those toxins, there was also benzene, a clear, colorless, and highly flammable chemical. When you put gas in your car, that smell you notice is benzene-an important petroleum byproduct that is also used in industrial solvents.

    In the universe of environmental contamination, language can be complex, murky, and often confusing. When it comes to benzene, though, the language is like the chemical itself, perfectly clear: Benzene is a carcinogen. Benzene is a well-established cause of cancer in humans, and benzene causes acute myeloid leukemia.

    The EPA has established a maximum contaminant level goal of zero parts per billion for benzene in public drinking water systems. In 1980, Naval Facilities Engineering Command testing showed that one of the wells at Camp Lejeune measured 380 parts per billion.

    In 2010, the Associated Press found that a contractor "dramatically underreported" the level of benzene found in Lejeune's tap water. Per the AP's reporting, in 1992, when ATSDR visited Camp Lejeune to start its public health assessment, they found that a contractor had erroneously documented the 1984 level of benzene in one well was 38 parts per billion-when the actual measurement had been 380 parts per billion. The same contractor's final report, issued in 1994, conveniently omitted the benzene altogether.

    "The Marine Corps had been warned nearly a decade earlier about the dangerously high levels of benzene, which was traced to massive leaks from fuel tanks at the base on the North Carolina coast, according to recently disclosed studies," the AP reported.

    The chemical stew found at Lejeune is made of volatile organic compounds. They are able to vaporize, and, with ultimate stealth, to enter soil and air as gases, which then become your invisible companions. Finally, they come for the ones you love. 

    When the Water Becomes Vapor

    A friend of mine describes the humid days in North Carolina as feeling like you are in a dog's mouth. It can be brutal. Take a shower and walk outside and you need another shower. The only thing to do is drink lots of water and search for shade. Our school had an open plan, no enclosed hallways or air-conditioning, so on hot days teachers marched us to the old metal water fountains after recess. Then there were the "black flag days," which meant that it was too hot for recess. In the cafeteria, we lined up for strange-tasting meat patties on plastic trays that were still warm and damp from the wash cycle. I can still smell all that dirty steam coming from the industrial dishwashers. We were breathing it, the toxic vapors, but the cafeteria ladies serving us were right there in a fog of it all day long, wearing hairnets and gloves out of what is, in retrospect, a heartbreaking concern for the students' health and safety.

    In homes across the country, vaporized poisons from underground can also be stealth killers. The dry-cleaning business down the road might be accidentally responsible for polluting the air in someone's home. This is because of something called soil vapor intrusion, the process by which chemicals migrate from contaminated soil and groundwater into the air of indoor structures where it then sits, essentially trapped. The EPA issued its first guidance on vapor intrusion in 2002. In 2003, the George W. Bush administration ended that guidance. President Barack Obama then made it a priority-and the EPA released its final Vapor Intrusion Technical Guide in 2015.

    Mike Magner, author of A Trust Betrayed, says that he thinks vapor intrusion is "the next big firestorm for the Pentagon, not just at Camp Lejeune but at military bases and former bases around the country."

    "There is plenty of evidence that the air is or has been toxic inside some of Lejeune's buildings-there are test results being covered up but that will eventually come out-and there is a good possibility that either legislation or litigation will force the government to address this problem," Magner says. "If the Marines are worried about their liabilities for the water contamination at Camp Lejeune, they ain't seen nothin' yet."

    Some years ago, I became a member of the Community Assistance Panel, a group mandated by congress to represent the Lejeune community working with the scientists at the CDC and with bureaucrats at the Veterans Administration. Through this work, I've learned more about the military's cover-up of the water contamination, and how the culture that says "Stay Marine" also ensures that some problems remain entombed in secrecy.

    The Community Assistance Panel has obtained more than 22,000 documents from an in-progress vapor intrusion study on the buildings at Camp Lejeune up to the present time. The study documents a clear and ongoing risk of exposure, as the groundwater plumes and utility lines-the pathways of exposure-are still located under the buildings.

    This summer, a report to the CDC said that a recent test, at a building used as a barracks, had revealed the "highest recorded on-base indoor air TCE [trichloroethylene] detection due to vapor intrusion" since the EPA issued its guidance. This measurement exceeds both state and federal screening levels, which can cause health problems for those exposed, especially women who are in the first trimester of pregnancy. Which brings me back to my mother.

    The Damage Is Done

    My mother grew up poor on a farm, traumatized (she said) from having to break chicken's necks, and dropped out of high school mid-way through. But Mary Freshwater knew her powers, and they were a force when she conjured them.

    In 2007, the National Academy of Sciences convened a panel to talk about the water at Lejeune. It took place at the Jacksonville USO, the oldest USO building in the country, which sits on banks of New River under old Carolina shade trees. My mother was sitting in the audience while experts went on about statistics until it was time to hear from the people affected by the poisoned water at Camp Lejeune. Mom was there to tell them about Rusty and Charlie, the two babies she'd lost: one born with an open spine, the other with no cranium. Behind my mom, the Marines and family members were there to listen and tell their own stories. 

    Wearing a light pink turtleneck, her hair an uncharacteristic mess, she stepped up to the microphone and placed a small cardboard box on the podium in front of her. In black marker in small letters on the top of the box was the word Baby. This was all my mom had left of Rusty, my brother who had lived a month and died on New Year's Eve in 1978.

    As she spoke, she opened the baby box and unpacked it, eventually holding up a dingy bottle with the nipple still on it and liquid still inside, and a blue onesie, with a yellow stain which she would explain was her son's vomit that she had not been able to wash. "We are not numbers in a study. We are human beings that have had great tragedies," she said.

    After my mom died, this same baby box was one of the things I knew I had to find and keep. She had it with her all the time, even as we moved all over the place. It was my family history, but it was also now something public-a part of the country's history too.

    My mom's leukemia, and her unwillingness to give up the fight, made her extended illness one of terrible suffering. After her death, my mother's much younger husband fell apart and fell into the bottle again. One night I got a call saying that he hadn't paid the rent and that the landlady was putting all my mom's stuff in the old barn out back. Some cousins had already shown up and taken things. I was living in Rhode Island and had to drive down to rural North Carolina overnight. By the time I could get there the place was a mess. After a few minutes of walking around the house, I was able to find the baby box.

    It was sitting with junk, looking like the next candidate for the trash. I went into the kitchen to get some water; it was hot already and I was thirsty. On the counter there was another box, and this one stood out because it was new and had no name.

    I opened it. Inside was a clear bag of ash and small fragments of bone. It was what was left of my mama. It was the first time I had seen someone's ashes like that. It was not what I expected, not elegant ash like the kind the Kennedys would puff into the air from their boat and watch settle into the sea. Instead, it was undeniably the remnants of a human being, heavy with bits of stubborn bone. I went and got my little brother's box and sat it on the counter too. Right next to her.

    And then, after packing up as much as I could, I took them both home. The New River is not one of the most beautiful rivers. The banks are scrappy, with wild bushes crouched and waiting to sting your legs. It starts and finishes in Onslow County. It is our river, and it seems to say it is majestic until it makes believers out of us all. Sometimes it looks like the banks are falling into the water, like a claw came along and took root and dirt, rot and leaves. This kind of thing can look spooky. Maybe because we want to wonder, but never actually know, what is buried. We don't want a storm to come along and dig up the things that have been covered, forgotten.
    ______________

  • 31 Jul 2018 12:29 PM | Anonymous

    Click here to read the Federal Register rule on Payment or Reimbursement for Certain Medical Expenses for Camp Lejeune Family Members


    Click here to read the Federal Register rule on Hospital Care and Medical Services for Camp Lejeune Veterans


    Governor Releases Statement on Senate Bill 574

    Raleigh, NC - Governor Pat McCrory released the following statement following the signing of Senate Bill 574:  “This solution is a testament to our ability in state government to work together in a bipartisan manner to respond swiftly to citizens’ needs,” said Governor McCrory. “I would like to thank the members of the General Assembly for taking quick action to address the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling.”

    Senate Bill 574, which passed unanimously in both the state House and Senate, provided clarification to certain state laws addressing groundwater contamination lawsuits. The legislation was passed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in CTS Corp. v. Waldburger. Without the new legislation, the ruling could have resulted in the dismissal of certain groundwater contamination suits.

    To read the North Carolina bill in its entirety click here.  

    For a complete chronological summary click here.

    CMC published a letter expressing his concerns and addressing the actions to be taken by the Marine Corps on this issue. To view the letter click here.

    CDC Confirms Cancer & Camp Lejeune Water linked! 07Jun13

    A longawaited study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms a link between tainted tap water at a U.S. Marine Corps base in North Carolina and increased risk of serious birth defects and childhood cancers.  For the full story click HERE

    Marine Corps’ full response to NBC News regarding water contamination at Camp Lejeune  21 Feb 2013

    In the early 1980s, Camp Lejeune began to test drinking water for trihalomethanes (THMs) because of new regulations that had been announced by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for those chemicals in November of 1979. Monitoring was required by November 1982 and compliance by November 1983. THMs are chemicals that are created when water is treated with chlorine. While these initial tests for THMs were being conducted, other chemicals, unidentified at the time, were sometimes interfering with the results.  For full interview click here. 

    FOR THE HADNOT POINT AND HOLCOMB BOULEVARD WATER TREATMENT

    PLANTS AND VICINITIES. Find out More.


    For all those that were stationed at Camp Lejeune during the time period in question, it is recommended by the Marine Corps to register, click here to begin.

    Contact the VA for Reimbursement

    VA will be able to reimburse Veterans’ family members for eligible out-of-pocket health care expenses for 15 health conditions after we publish regulations. Prepare in 3 steps:

    1. Call 1-877-222-8387 to be added to VA’s Camp Lejeune database.
    2. Gather documents showing your relationship to a Veteran who served at Camp Lejeune and that you lived on base for 30 days or more between 1957-87.
    3. Keep receipts for health care expenses you paid for a covered condition on or after March 26, 2013.
    Public Health Information

    Visit www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures to learn about other military exposures and VA benefits.

    New health benefits

    Under a law signed Aug. 6, 2012 (215 KB, PDF), Veterans and family members who served on active duty or resided at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between Jan. 1, 1957 and Dec. 31, 1987 may be eligible for VA medical care.

    Compensation benefits

    The new law applies to health care, not disability compensation. At this time, there is insufficient scientific and clinical evidence to establish a presumptive association between service at Camp Lejeune during the period of water contamination and the development of certain diseases. VA is closely monitoring new research. VA representatives regularly attend the quarterly Community Action Panel meetings hosted by The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).  Veterans may file a claim for disability compensation for health problems they believe are related to exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. VA decides these claims on a case-by-case basis. File a claim online For the full details click here.

    Links for all the CLNC Water info:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Lejeune_water_contamination (for background)

    http://www.tftptf.com/ (a valuable proponent website)

    http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/camp-lejeune/  (the VA slice)

    https://clnr.hqi.usmc.mil/clwater/index.aspx  (The USMC slice)

    http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/sites/lejeune/health_survey.html (The toxic substance survey)

    Members who think they may have been effected should be encouraged to join the registry, participate in the surveys, and stay informed about the issue.

  • 31 Jul 2018 12:26 PM | Anonymous

    In the early 1980s at the Marine Corps Base in Lejeune, NC, it was discovered that two on-base water-supply systems were contaminated with the volatile organic compounds trichloroethylene (TCE), a metal degreaser, and perchloroethylene (PCE), a dry cleaning agent. Benzene, vinyl chloride, and other compounds were also found to be contaminating the water-supply systems. For the full link click here.

    Many of the members of the MCRA have been stationed during their career at Camp Lejeune. As such, this issue is one that the MCRA is following closely and has been advocating on Capitol Hill for many years. Much progress has been made, but there is much work remaining. We will continue to follow this issue for as long as it remains. We will strive to keep the membership informed of all news on this issue. The Marine Corps encourages all those who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune before 1987 to register to receive notifications regarding this matter. In addition, the Department of the Navy is funding independent research initiatives.

    The MCRA will continue to keep this as a priority for the Association and push information as it becomes available to the membership. Keeping in step with our mission to remain faithful to all those that have served.

    I have found a law firm The Bell Legal Group that specializes in representing those that were victimized.  The best part is this site does an exceptional job with keeping up with information that has impacted so many!  

    NEWS STORIES

    Marines who served at Camp Lejeune but can't get VA healthcare

    More studies in the works on Camp Lejeune toxic water victims

    More studies in the works on Camp Lejeune toxic water victims

    Third study confirms harmful effects of water at Camp Lejeune

    Esminger reflects on passage of bill to help victims

    NC House backs Lejeune victims

    “It has been almost three years since Congress passed the Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act. In that time, the CDC has released four studies showing that these Camp Lejeune families have a higher risk of certain cancers and a higher mortality rate.  Yet the VA continues to drag its feet and disagree with the government's leading scientists. It's unconscionable that only 10 percent of these sick veterans have gotten disability benefits. If the VA won't listen to the law or to scientists, what's it going to take?"  -Senator Richard Burr (R-NC)

  • 31 Jul 2018 12:22 PM | Anonymous

    Carol Smith Davis grew up in Jacksonville and on Camp Lejeune. Davis remembers spending almost every day of every summer at the pool when she was young. It was fun and there wasn’t much else to do in the area during the 60s and 70s, she said.But even as a child she had problems. Davis has had issues with her immune system all her life in addition to tumors in both of her breasts. Because of this, she had doctor recommended breast exams twice a year.

    Karol Smith Davis is a breast cancer survivor. Although she still has pain, she is grateful to be alive and that she is able to help others in the community through her nonprofit.








    In January of 2011, Davis went to her exam and everything was fine. But by her next exam in October, there was a problem. “They told me that I had several things they were concerned about,” she said. After several biopsies it was discovered that Davis had three carcinomas in her left breast and six in her right. She had Stage 3 invasive breast cancer.

    By the end of November, the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. Davis had eight of her lymph nodes removed as well as a mastectomy. She had surgery on her birthday -- Feb. 3, 2012.  Cancer affected her life in many ways, Davis said. There were medical issues caused by treatment, especially since she already had a compromised immune system, in addition to the emotional and financial stress added to her and her family. There are many things that aren’t talked about when it comes to living beyond cancer, she said. The list side effects caused by treatment is long, but some things, like having to take pills every day for the following years, losing your eyelashes as well as your hair, loss of libido and vaginal dryness don’t always make it into the conversation.  “What people don’t tell you about living with breast cancer is that there are so many other things, residual things, that go along with it,” she said.  Davis suffers from lymphedema since her lymph nodes were removed. The flow of lymph, fluid that circulates throughout the body to remove waste from tissues, gets backed-up in her arm, causing extreme swelling and pain. In order to keep it manageable, Davis must wear a compression sleeve on the affected arm -- the right arm, her dominant arm.


    “I have to wear mine everyday for the rest of my life otherwise my arm just balloons. It gets so big sometimes I can barely lift it,” she said. The sleeves, like many other items meant to help with quality of life, are not covered by her insurance.  Davis is happy to have a caring and loving husband, she said.  “He’s a kind man and just loves me,” she said. Davis decided not to have reconstructive surgery on her breasts, lives with an enlarged arm and other issues caused by cancer and its treatment. And her husband has stuck by her, she said. Davis also has a good support system in her children and her friends, she said. Davis and her friends get together and keep each other encouraged, she said.

  • 31 Jul 2018 12:21 PM | Anonymous


    As part of VA's ongoing commitment to provide care to veterans and their families, the Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced that it will start the process of amending its regulations to establish presumptions of service connection for certain conditions resulting from exposure to contaminated drinking water at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.  This process is in addition to the healthcare VA already provides for 15 conditions to eligible veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between Aug. 1, 1953 and Dec. 31, 1987 as a result of the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012. VA also provides reimbursement of healthcare expenses for those 15 conditions to eligible family members who resided at Camp Lejeune during that time period. To read rest of the article click VA MCB CL 0CT.pdf.

  • 31 Jul 2018 12:20 PM | Anonymous


    An exclusive NY1 investigation revealed that the Department of Veterans Affairs denies 89 percent of disability claims where there is "evidence of an association with the contaminants in the water" at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, an issue that impacts thousands of veterans and civilians across the country, including here in New York. In his latest report, NY1's Michael Herzenberg gets reaction from the VA and a lawmaker.

    A NY1 investigation found that the VA denies disability benefits to nearly nine out of 10 veterans who say contaminated water at the famed Camp Lejeune Marine Base made them sick and that there is evidence of an association with the contaminants in the water.

    "We continue to see bias on the part of the VA not to award disability benefits," said North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr.

    Both Burr and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis say they’ve been pressuring the VA to change.

    “The only conclusion one can come to,” Burr said, “is that some in VA believe that it's better to have those folks die before the payments made."

    The VA responded with a statement, saying, "We have met with Sen. Burr and will continue to do so to address his concerns and questions.  VA claims examiners have no financial motivation in their decisions and in fact are encouraged to respect a philosophy that VA grant if it can and deny only if it must.  VA advocates for Veterans, Servicemembers, and their survivors.  More than 54 percent of the people that work in VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration (the administration responsible for non-healthcare benefits) are Veterans themselves."

    Craig Unterberg doesn't see it that way. The New York City attorney is now fighting kidney cancer and lived on the North Carolina base as a child.

    "It's taking too long, and this is an urgent situation there are just some people that are so sick," he said about the VA's process.

    900,000 veterans and their families may have been exposed to chemicals from 1953 to 1987 that seeped into the groundwater from industrial sites inside Camp Lejeune and a dry cleaner just off the base.

    In 2012, a law made medical care less expensive for those who drank the water and suffer from any of 15 medical conditions.

    In December, the VA decided to eliminate obstacles to disability benefits for vets with eight conditions, but its implementation will take at least a year.

    Mark Cifelli is a Marine veteran who served at Camp Lejeune in the 1980s. He, with the support of his new bride, is fighting to survive Stage 4 colon, lung and liver cancer. He says his doctors believe the contaminated water at the Marine base is the cause and that the VA rejected his application for disability benefits three times.

    Cifelli spoke to NY1 from his suburban Buffalo home.

    "There's no reason to make people wait any longer. I might not be around here," he said.

    Burr says the VA could do it quicker, pointing to Vietnam. The U.S. used the deforester Agent Orange back then, sickening thousands of our service members. Burr says the VA implemented a fast-track for disability benefits in three months.

    Burr says VA officials told him they'd look into that.

    The VA told NY1 it is bound by the rule-making time frames established by law.

  • 31 Jul 2018 12:19 PM | Anonymous

    On 29 April Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced S. 2888, The Janey Ensminger Act of 2016, which requires the VA to provide medical care for all diseases that can be scientifically linked to exposure to toxic chemicals at Camp Lejeune. Text of the Janey Ensminger Act of 2016 is available here A one pager on the legislation is available here.

    The VA recently sent out an update to all persons who have signed up for updates.  The document is attached here for those that have not received the update.

  • 31 Jul 2018 12:18 PM | Anonymous


    The federal bureaucracy moved at an agonizing crawl for the Marine Corps veterans sickened by the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Some died waiting for government benefits. But the Department of Veterans Affairs Thursday, after more than a year of work, finalized rules that will allow potentially thousands of veterans stationed at the base — or surviving spouses — to receive automatic benefits if they have been diagnosed with one of eight diseases.

    This marks the end of a long wait for many veterans who have been denied benefits by the VA and may be in desperate need for disability pensions and medical care. The estimated cost to taxpayers over the next five years is $2.2 billion. FULL STORY CLICK HERE


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