After Years of Denials, VA to Give Disability Status to Veterans Poisoned by Camp Lejeune Water
WASHINGTON – Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that the VA would begin the process to grant presumptive disability status to veterans of service at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina who have certain cancers and conditions known to be associated with long term exposure to the chemicals that contaminated the base water system from 1953-1987. VA is conceding that it will no longer deny benefits to eligible veterans based on VA’s faulty and selective interpretations of science. The VA’s use of “presumptive status” means the benefit of the doubt goes to the veteran as long as VA determines they meet eligibility requirements.
Under pressure from Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), the VA now acknowledges the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other respected scientific bodies' determination that the chemicals in the contaminated water are known to cause several illnesses Camp Lejeune veterans are experiencing. In short, veterans will now be able to get VA benefits as a result of their exposure.
“I’m disappointed that we had to pressure the VA to do the right thing for our veterans in the first place,” said Burr. “The scientific research is strong and the widespread denials of benefits will soon end. Now, these veterans and their families members will not have to fight for benefits they are due. I look forward to seeing the commitment Secretary McDonald gave me realized without unnecessary delay and I credit him and Dr. Breysse of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry for their commitment to righting this wrong.”
“The evidence has been accumulating for years now – many of those who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune in years past developed certain diseases after exposure to contaminated drinking water. Compensating these victims, our Nation’s heroes and their families, is simply the right thing to do and I commend Secretary McDonald for taking this bold step for responsible government,” said Tillis. “I am proud to join Senator Burr and support his deep commitment to advocating on behalf of the victims, and we will continue to monitor the Veterans Affairs Administration closely to ensure that the process for establishing the presumptive program occurs in a timely and meaningful way.”
Sens Burr and Tillis met with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald in July and the Director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to discuss ways the VA could begin admitting benefits to veterans afflicted with these diseases caused by poisoned water at Camp Lejeune.
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