The Veteran’s Administration has had the Marine Corps’ dirty deed dumped on them. Congress passed ‘‘Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012’’ aka ‘‘Janey Ensminger Act.” As the VA site puts it:
From the 1950s through the 1980s, people living or working at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, were potentially exposed to drinking water contaminated with industrial solvents, benzene, and other chemicals.
New health benefits
Under a law signed Aug. 6, 2012 (215 KB, PDF), Veterans and family members who served on active duty or resided at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between Jan. 1, 1957 and Dec. 31, 1987 may be eligible for medical care through VA for 15 health conditions:Esophageal cancer
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma Lung cancer
Veterans already enrolled in VA health care, contact your local VA health care facility to receive care under the new law. Those not already enrolled should call 1-877-222-8387 for assistance.
Family members will receive care after Congress appropriates funds and VA publishes regulations.
The new law applies to health care, not disability compensation. At this time, there is insufficient scientific and clinical evidence to establish a presumptive association between service at Camp Lejeune during the period of water contamination and the development of certain diseases.
VA is closely monitoring new research. VA representatives regularly attend the quarterly Community Action Panel meetings hosted by The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
Veterans may file a claim for disability compensation for health problems they believe are related to exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. VA decides these claims on a case-by-case basis. File a claim online.
Marine Corps notifications
If you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune prior to 1987, you may register to receive notifications from the Marine Corps regarding Camp Lejeune Historic Drinking Water.
What brought us to this? The Military has been sloppy over the years. Sloppy with their munitions dumps. Sloppy with their chemicals. Sloppy with their fuels. Sloppy with the actual public records of who worked where on what. It almost looks like a culture based on total disregard for the environment, the people in their employ, and future generations mixed with the idea of “culpable deniability.” If you can’t prove we did it, we are not responsible for it — is their attitude.
Well, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina over a million people were exposed to:
Industrial chemical exposure
Drinking-water systems that supplied two areas of housing at Camp Lejeune were contaminated with industrial chemicals from at least 1957 to 1985. The contaminated wells were shut down in February 1985. The chemicals primarily were:
Perchloroethylene (PCE) (145 KB, PDF), a dry cleaning solvent
Trichloroethylene (TCE) (76 KB, PDF), a metal greasing solvent
Benzene (55 KB, PDF), a fuel component
Vinyl chloride (59 KB, PDF), which can form when TCE and PCE are broken down
The contamination was so bad and had gone on for so long with so few reliable records kept that the government’s own study concluded:
After reviewing the study plans and feasibility assessments, the committee concluded that most questions about whether exposures at Camp Lejeune resulted in adverse health effects cannot be answered definitively with further scientific study. There are two main reasons for this. First, it is not possible to reliably estimate the historical exposures experienced by people at the base. Second, it will be difficult to detect any increases in the rate of diseases or disorders in the study population.
Given the multiple uncertainties and likely variation in contaminant concentrations, the committee concluded that the Tarawa Terrace modeling predictions should only be used to provide a general estimate of the timeframe and magnitude of exposure.
It cannot be determined reliably whether diseases and disorders experienced by former residents and workers at Camp Lejuene are associated with their exposure to contaminants in the water supply because of data shortcomings and methodological limitations, and these limitations cannot be overcome with additional study.
The contamination of the Hadnot Point system was more complex than Tarawa Terrace. There were multiple sources of pollutants, including an industrial area, a drum dump, a transformer storage lot, an industrial fly ash dump, an open storage pit, a former fire training area, a site of a former on-base dry cleaner, a liquids disposal area, a former burn dump, a fuel-tank sludge area, and the site of the original base dump.
So what has the VA done since Pres. Obama signed the Act on 6 Aug 2012?
“According to a Congressional source, only 16% of Camp Lejeune’s claims for medical conditions linked to the contaminated water were approved by the VA’s Louisville office as of September 2012. The Louisville office approved 517 medical conditions out of 3,233.”
As on commentator put it
The Marine Corps (the polluter) passes the problem to the VA and gets away with it. The base wells were contaminated by the government (Marine Corps) for 30 years; the VA didn’t want to provide health care and was forced to cover 15 medical conditions by PL 112-154 (August 6, 2012); the VA consolidated the compensation claims from Lejeune veterans in Louisville to reduce the backlog of claims; and the VA, often hostile to veterans, is reducing its compensation claim by issuing denials. Why would the Lejeune veterans be treated differently?
We have been through this before. Mustard gas. Atomic experiments. Nerve gas. Cold War experiments. MK Ultra in all it’s incarnations. Agent Orange. Depleted Uranium munitions casings. When are we going to hold the US Military accountable? Accountable for the sloppiness with poisons. Accountable for the way they waste our young people’s lives. Accountable for the messes they leave all over the world.
Those fine, brave young people who served their nation proudly in the Marine Corps, and their families, deserve a hell of a lot better than this. And the civilian workers there and their families are still invisible.