The Obama administration continues to cross things off its last-minute to-do list. One of the latest examples is that it agreed to pay $2.2 billion over 5 years to Marine veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune here in North Carolina. The reason is that they were exposed to dangerous amounts of contaminated drinking water if they were on base for at least 30 days between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987. The VA estimates that there were 900,000 service members who could have been exposed during the time period.
The cash payments will come from the Department of Veterans Affairs and may augment VA health care already provided to those eligible veterans. If they now come forward, they will have to submit evidence of their service information and medical diagnosis. That said, the VA will use all relevant evidence from internal sources and the Department of Defense to support the application, but it may take longer to approve.
According to the VA's official report, the tainted water has been linked to adult leukemia, aplastic anemia, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and Parkinson's disease.
The drinking water was contaminated by leaking fuel tanks and an off-base drycleaner. The water was first tested in the early '80s, but veterans groups suggest that Marine command was slow to respond to the issue. Some drinking water wells were closed in 1984 and 1985 when further testing confirmed initial findings.
Liability was finally officially acknowledged in 2012 after Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger took his case through the courts. His daughter was born in 1976 when he was stationed at Lejeune and she died of leukemia at age 9. The 2012 Camp Lejeune health care law was passed by congress and signed by the president gave free VA medical care to the effected veterans and their families. However, they were not granted survivor benefits or disability aid. This led to additional lawsuits, which this latest development addresses.
If you were stationed at Camp Lejeune during the applicable time, then you may want to contact your local VA. More than 1,400 disability claims tied to Camp Lejeune are currently pending.
Of course the Marine base isn't the only place where citizens come across unsafe working or living conditions. If you feel that your health has been adversely affected by your surroundings, particularly at work, it's wise to consult with an attorney experienced in Workers' Compensation. They can be extremely helpful in determining whether there is case where you deserve to be compensated for injuries and illness suffered.