After years of waiting, veterans who were exposed to contaminated water while at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina may now be eligible to receive veterans’ disability benefits.
The Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) has updated is regulations for presumptive service connection to include eight diseases associated with exposure to contaminates in the base’s water.
The VA considers the decision as “historic,” as it is one of few instances in which military personnel will be eligible for benefits without having been deployed for war. Exposure to Agent Orange residue on Vietnam War planes is one other instance.
The new presumption of service connection is available for National Guard, Reserve and active duty veterans who served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 consecutive days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 and have been diagnosed with one of the following:
- Cancer of the kidneys
- Cancer of the liver
- Cancer of the bladder
- Aplastic anemia and myelodysplastic syndromes
- Adult leukemia
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Multiple myeloma
The VA determined that there is enough medical and scientific evidence to suggest a strong link between the contaminated water and these eight diseases.
Veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune are already eligible for some medical benefits, but this final rule allows for a presumption of service connection and should expand the benefits available for many veterans.
The new disability benefits may be added to existing VA healthcare for eligible veterans beginning in March 2017. Veterans will be required to provide evidence documenting their service and diagnosis information.
It is believed that 900,000 service members came into contact with the contaminated water, though an estimated 23,000 veterans are anticipated to apply and qualify for the new disability benefit. The taxpayer cost is anticipated to be $2.2 billion over five years.
In the early 1980s, two on-base drinking water supplies were found to be contaminated with a number of dangerous chemicals and compounds. The contaminated wells were not shut down until 1985. Many have criticized Marine leaders as being slow to respond when tests first showed evidence of contamination.
The attorneys at Gordon & Partners have long been advocates for veterans affected by the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. For help applying for benefits, contact our West Palm Beach veterans’ disability lawyers for a free, no obligation consultation.