Thursday, October 9, 2014

Lejeune vets exposed to toxic water have deadline extended
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 military base.
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 cleaning compounds.
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 been finalized.
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.

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