From the 1950’s through the 1980’s, civilian contractors, service members and their families living or working on the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, were potentially exposed to contaminated drinking water.
For decades, complaints blamed on the water at Lejeune, including serious ailments such as cancers, infertility, neurobehavioral effects, and deaths, have plagued the base. In 2012, the Janey Ensminger Act was signed into law. The bill was named for the daughter of a Master Sergeant who developed leukemia from the water at Lejeune, and died in 1985 at the age of nine.
As part of the Janey Ensminger Act, the U.S. government approved compensation benefits for anyone affected by the base’s contaminated water supply. At the time the bill was passed, eligibility for compensation benefits had only been open to Marines and family members who lived on base at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between January 1, 1957, and December 31, 1987. Also, a full investigation into the water supply and its effects were ordered.
The findings of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Camp Lejeune’s water supply were released in February, 2014. The report found that people who regularly drank the water at Camp Lejeune were at a 10% higher risk of dying from any type of cancer, compared to those who regularly drink the water at Camp Pendleton, California. There was a 35% higher risk of kidney cancer, a 42% higher risk of liver cancer, a 47% higher risk of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a 68% higher risk of multiple myeloma, and double the risk of ALS.
In light of the 2014 report, the act was amended in December to expand eligibility for family members affected by the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. Under the amendment, family members who lived at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987, could be eligible for VA health benefits. This amendment opens the eligibility window by four years.
Anyone who resided on base for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and who suffers from one or more of the following conditions, is eligible for the benefits: Esophageal cancer, breast cancer, kidney cancer, multiple myeloma, renal toxicity, female infertility, Scleroderma, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, lung cancer, bladder cancer, leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes, hepatic steatosis, miscarriage, and neurobehavioral effects.
Family members would have to show proof of relationship to a Veteran who served at Camp Lejeune and provide copies of orders or base housing records as proof of residence on the installation.
To enroll online or for more information, call 1-866-372-1144 or visit publichealth.va.gov/exposures/camp-lejeune.
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Military Connection: Expanded Window for Claims: By Debbie Gregory