WASHINGTON — The VA is beginning the process of amending its
regulations to establish presumptive-disability status for veterans who
have certain diseases linked to contaminated drinking water at Camp
By establishing presumptive status, it is presumed that the disease
was caused by service, making it easier for veterans to obtain
In a recent announcement, the VA said it is reviewing potential
presumptive service connection for kidney cancer, angiosarcoma of the
liver and acute myelogenous leukemia, which it said “are known to be
related to long-term exposure to the chemicals that were in the water at
Lejeune from the 1950s through 1987.”
“The chemicals are benzene, vinyl chloride, trichloroethylene and
perchloroethylene, which are known as volatile organic compounds, used
in industrial solvents and components of fuels,” the agency explained.
(For more on Camp Lejeune and cancer, see the Oncology Focus.)
Working with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
and potentially the National Academy of Sciences “to evaluate the body
of scientific knowledge and research related to exposure to these
chemicals and the subsequent development of other diseases,” adding, “VA
will carefully consider all public comments received when determining
the final scope of any presumptions,” the VA explained.
A study from ATSDR researchers, published last month, linked the
contaminated water to higher rates of early onset male breast cancer.
Previous studies from the same group had found associations between the
chemicals at the North Carolina base and a range of cancers.
Lawmakers applauded the announcement.
“The evidence has been accumulating for years now — many of those who
lived or worked at Camp Lejeune in years past developed certain
diseases after exposure to contaminated drinking water. Compensating
these victims, our nation’s heroes and their families, is simply the
right thing to do,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC).
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), a key advocate for those impacted by the
contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, said he was “disappointed that we
had to pressure the VA to do the right thing for our veterans in the
“The scientific research is strong, and the widespread denials of
benefits will soon end,” Burr said. “Now, these veterans and their
families members will not have to fight for benefits they are due.”