The Veterans Affairs Department has extended its deadline for
veterans to receive reimbursement for medical costs related to exposure
to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and announced it
will start paying out-of-pocket health costs for family members with
certain health conditions related to drinking toxic water at the
Complying with a law passed in 2012 — the Honoring
America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act — VA has
released two announcements clarifying its health care coverage and
reimbursement policies for illnesses in veterans and family members who
lived at Camp Lejeune from 1957 to 1987.
More than 750,000 people
may have been exposed to polluted drinking water at Camp Lejeune that
contained volatile organic compounds and other chemicals like benzene
and vinyl chloride.
When reports of the contamination first
surfaced, it was thought to be confined to one main housing area, the
result of illegal dumping by an off-base dry cleaner. Later, the
pollution was found to be more extensive, encompassing two major water
treatment facilities fouled by industrial spills, poor disposal
practices and leaking underground storage tanks as well as the dry
The 15 illnesses covered under the law include
certain cancers, such as breast, lung, esophageal and bladder cancer,
as well as other medical conditions like kidney and liver problems,
infertility, miscarriage and birth defects.
VA began providing
care to affected veterans for these diseases after the Camp Lejeune
water law passed in 2012. But VA did not announce its plans to pay for
family members’ care until Sept. 24 — and even those procedures have not
Retired Marine Master Sgt. Jerome Ensminger has
helped lead the fight to uncover the problems and push for legislation
to help affected families. His 9-year-old daughter Janey died in 1987 of
leukemia, and he knows many service members, family and friends who
either are sick or have died from exposure-related diseases.
He finds it unacceptable that families are still waiting two years after the law’s passage to have their medical bills covered.