Eight Conditions Linked to Previously Toxic Water System
By Sandra Basu
WASHINGTON—Thousands of veterans who were exposed to contaminants at Camp Lejeune will become eligible for automatic disability compensation if they have been diagnosed with eight diseases linked with toxins in the water supply.
The new rule establishes presumptions for the service connection of eight diseases associated with water exposure at the North Carolina military base. Earlier legislation, which did not include presumption of service connection, required VA to provide healthcare to veterans and their family members who have one of 15 conditions associated with chemicals in the polluted water system.
The new rule, published last month, will automatically grant disability compensation for adult leukemia, aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Parkinson’s disease.
In order to be eligible, the veteran, former reservist or former National Guard member had to serve at Camp Lejeune for 30 or more cumulative days between Aug. 1, 1953, and 1987. The rule will be effective either 60 days after publication in the Federal Register or following conclusion of the 60-day congressional review, whichever is later, according to VA.
The change in law is expected to cost VA more than $2 billion in disability payments.
“We have a responsibility to take care of those who have served our nation and have been exposed to harm as a result of that service,” explained Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald. “Establishing a presumption for service at Camp Lejeune will make it easier for those veterans to receive the care and benefits they earned.”