VA to expand coverage for contaminated Lejeune drinking water
By TRAVIS J. TRITTEN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 17, 2015
WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs said Thursday it plans to cover eight diseases newly linked to toxic contaminants once found in drinking water at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Veterans who served at the Marine Corps between 1953 and 1987 could be eligible for medical care and disability coverage if they develop kidney or liver cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, scleroderma, Parkinson’s disease or aplastic anemia, the VA announced.
About 1 million Marines and dependents might have been exposed to industrial solvents present in the base drinking water for more than three decades and 15 health conditions have already been linked to the contamination.
“The water at Camp Lejeune was a hidden hazard and it is only years later that we know how dangerous it was,” VA Secretary Bob McDonald said in a released statement. “We thank ATSDR for the thorough review that provided much of the evidence we needed to fully compensate Veterans who develop one of the conditions known to be related to exposure to the compounds in the drinking water.”
The change would also make reserve and National Guard personnel who served at Camp Lejeune for any length of time during the decades that the water was polluted eligible for disability, the department said. Surviving dependents would be eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation and burial benefits.
Expanded eligibility is, for now, a proposal by McDonald and must be accepted by the department as a final rule before veterans will be eligible. It provided no timeline Thursday.
The VA currently covers 15 health conditions for Camp Lejeune vets and considers other disability claims on a case-by-case basis.