Vets who were at Lejeuene could get benefits

Published 12:34 am Friday, January 20, 2017

Local veterans who were stationed or served at Camp Lejeune may be eligible for VA benefits due to health hazards, officials said Thursday.

From the 1950s through the 1980s, people living or working at the U.S. Marine Corps camp were potentially exposed to drinking water contaminated with industrial solvents, benzene, and other chemicals. Lejeuene is a 246-square-mile training facility in Jacksonville, N.C.

The VA has amended its adjudication regulations regarding presumptive service connection, adding certain diseases associated with contaminants present in the base water supply at U.S. Marine Corps. Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., from Aug. 1, 1953, to Dec. 31, 1987.

“This final rule establishes veterans, former reservists, and former National Guard members, who served at Camp Lejeune for no less than 30 days (consecutive or nonconsecutive) during this period, and who have been diagnosed with any of eight associated diseases are presumed to have incurred or aggravated the disease in service for purposes of entitlements to VA benefits,” said Covington County Veterans Service Officer Brian Foshee.

The following conditions are included:

  • adult leukemia;
  • aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes;
  • bladder cancer;
  • kidney cancer;
  • liver cancer;
  • multiple myeloma;
  • non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma;
  • Parkinson’s disease

The final rule establishes a presumption that these individuals were disabled during the relevant period of service for purposes of establishing active military service for benefits purposes, Foshee said.

Under this presumption, affected former reservists and National Guard members have veteran status for purposes of entitlement to some VA benefits.

“This amendments implements a decision by the secretary of Veterans Affairs that service connection on a presumptive basis is warranted for claimants who served at Camp Lejeune during the relevant period and for the requisite amount of time and later develop certain diseases,” he said. “Veterans/claimants can begin to file claims on March 14, 2017.”

According to the VA, there is strong evidence establishing a relationship between exposure to certain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that were in the water at Camp Lejeune.

Federal Register information shows that in the early part of the 1980s, the Marine Corps, in response to new EPA regulations, monitored its water quality for VOCs.

It discovered in 1982 there were elevated levels of tricholoroethylene (TCE), a metal degreaser, and perchaloroethylene (PCE), a dry cleaning agent, in two of the eight on-base water supply systems at the Camp Lejeune. Benzene and vinyl chloride were also found in the water supply systems.

To find out if you qualify for the benefits, to get more information or to file a claim, please contact Foshee at 334-428-2687.