Tuesday, October 20, 2015

VA Seeks Presumptive-Disability Status for Camp Lejeune Veterans

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 Lejeune.
By establishing presumptive status, it is presumed that the disease was caused by service, making it easier for veterans to obtain disability benefits.
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 first place.”
“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.”

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