An expected 15,000 veterans whose serious illnesses are linked to a contaminated water supply at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina could receive compensation more quickly under a proposed Department of Veterans Affairs rule announced Friday.
The rule establishes that for veterans who served a minimum 30 days at Camp Lejeune between 1953 through 1987, the VA will automatically presume a connection to eight diseases: leukemia, anemia, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Parkinson's and bladder, kidney and liver cancer.
People serving at the Marine Corps base during that time were exposed to a metal de-greaser and other chemicals in the drinking water supply. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014 determined the contaminants increased risk for the illnesses.
"The change here is that up until now, each claim was processed on a case-by-case basis," VA spokesman Randal Noller said in an email. "With the new presumptive, the conditions noted will be 'presumed' to be related to exposure at Camp Lejeune with no further evidentiary requirements."
In order to be granted status for medical benefits, veterans will need to prove only that they served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days - a time frame on which the VA is still seeking public input. VA experts could not establish people exposed to the contaminated water for 30 days were more at risk than others who were at Camp Lejeune for a shorter amount of time.
"Therefore, VA welcomes comments on the 30-day minimum exposure requirement and will consider other practical alternatives when drafting the final rule," a written statement from the VA reads.