06.15.17

Veterans Committee Considers Bill to Provide Care for Camp Lejeune Toxic Exposure Victims

WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee considered the The Janey Ensminger Act of 2017.  Sponsored by Senators Richard Bur (R-NC) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), the bill requires the Veterans Administration (VA) to provide medical care for all diseases that can be scientifically linked to exposure to toxic chemicals at Camp Lejeune. Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are also sponsors. The legislation is named for Janey Ensminger, the daughter of Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger, who was born on base at Camp Lejeune and died as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals.

“I will not stop fighting for justice for the victims of Camp Lejeune,” said Senator Burr. “There remain many obstacles for us to overcome. I thank Jerry Ensminger for his tireless efforts at holding the VA accountable and improving the lives of all who suffer from illnesses incurred at Camp Lejeune. No one has been a better advocate for these individuals, and I cannot commend him highly enough for his steadfast determination.”

“The veterans and families who were poisoned at Camp Lejeune deserve health care based upon the best and most up to date scientific information available,” said Senator Tillis. “The Janey Ensminger Act ensures that science will be prioritized over budgets and that we place our trust in the federal government’s scientific experts outside of the VA, not VA and OMB bureaucrats. Thank you to Jerry Ensminger and Senator Burr for their dedication to this issue on behalf of Camp Lejeune veterans and their loved ones.”

The legislation also requires that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a federal agency within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, review all relevant scientific literature every three years to determine if sufficient or modest causal links have been found between toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune and additional diseases and conditions. This will ensure that veterans and their families will not have to wait to get medical care as researchers learn more about the long-term health consequences of the toxins found in the water at Camp Lejeune.

Master Sergeant Ensminger has been a tireless advocate for members of the military and their families that were harmed by toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune. In September 2015, Ensminger testified before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Ensminger

WATCH: Ensminger: Janey is but one example of the multitude of tragedies suffered by former Camp Lejeune families who were exposed by this negligence.

In August of 2012, President Obama signed the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 bill into law. This law, authored by Senator Burr, requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide health care to veterans and their family members who have certain diseases and conditions as a result of exposure to well-water contaminated by human carcinogens at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.  However, the VA has resisted providing health care benefits to many of these veterans and their family members because it has not recognized the scientific links between the exposure to toxins and certain diseases that have been found by government researchers at the ATSDR.  

Earlier this year, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs began granting compensation to veterans suffering from illnesses caused by contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Veterans who served at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more from 1953 to 1987 and are suffering from a service connected illness are now eligible to receive disability compensation.

Text of the Janey Ensminger Act of 2017 is available here.

A one pager on the legislation is available here.