Monday, May 23, 2011

Former Lejeune residents laud reintroduction of water contamination healthcare bill
Veterans of Camp Lejeune and their families are buzzing about the reintroduction of a bill that would create a presumptive link between contaminated drinking water on the base between the 1950s and 1980s and a number of diseases that have plagued former residents. The bill, introduced by Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., would allow Camp Lejeune veterans and family members to receive health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Called the Janey Ensminger Act in honor of a 9-year-old girl who died of childhood leukemia believed to be linked to exposure to the tainted water, the bill was first introduced last year but never emerged from the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Onslow County resident Jerry Ensminger, Janey’s father and an outspoken advocate for fellow Lejeune residents affected by the contaminated water, said he believes the bill’s prospects are much better this year.

“This is the second time around, and we’re working Republican support for it, making it what it should be in the first place: a bipartisan issue,” he said. “None of us had any political affiliations when we served in the military. Our affiliation was to serve this country.”

When the bill was introduced last year, only four of its 39 sponsors were Republicans.

This year, so far, three of the act’s 17 sponsors are Republican, including North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones, who cosponsored the bill last year as well.

Marine veteran Joe Glowacki, of Southampton, N.J., said he hopes the bill’s passage will make it easier for others to receive a 100-percent disabled rating from the VA as he did. Glowacki, 69, received correspondence from the Marine Corps in 2009 notifying former residents about potential risks connected with the water.

Having lived aboard Lejeune from 1959 to 1962, Glowacki performed a cursory health self-assessment, including a breast self-exam. He was shocked to discover a lump that would prove to be male breast cancer, requiring a mastectomy and over a year of agonizing procedures due to complications in recovery. To date, Glowacki is one of 70 former Lejeune residents to be diagnosed with male breast cancer.

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