Via the internet.
As part of VA’s ongoing commitment to provide care to Veterans and their families, the Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced that it will start the process of amending its regulations to establish presumptions of service connection for certain conditions resulting from exposure to contaminated drinking water at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
This process is in addition to the healthcare VA already provides for 15 conditions to eligible Veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 as a result of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012. VA also provides reimbursement of healthcare expenses for those 15 conditions to eligible family members who resided at Camp Lejeune during that time period.
The Secretary of Veterans Affairs recently met with Senators Isakson, Burr and Tillis and the Director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to discuss the creation of presumptions of service connection for diseases associated with the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. The diseases that are currently being reviewed for potential presumptive service connection include kidney cancer, angiosarcoma of the liver, and acute myelogenous leukemia, which 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. ATSDR and VA representatives will meet at ATSDR offices on August 19 to begin discussions on establishing these presumptions.
VA will also work with 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. VA will carefully consider all public comments received when determining the final scope of any presumptions.
Veterans with health problems they believe are related to exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune may file a claim for disability compensation online at www.ebenefits.va.gov, or call 1–800–827–1000 for assistance.
For more information, Veterans and family members should contact the nearest VA healthcare facility by calling 1–877–222–VETS (8387) or visit www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/camp-lejeune. For further information on Camp Lejeune: VHA Office of Public Health has a Website on Camp Lejeune historical water contamination at: www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/camp-lejeune/index.asp.The U.S. Marine Corps encourages all those who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune before 1987 to register for notifications regarding Camp Lejeune Historic Drinking Water at https://clnr.hqi.usmc.mil/clwater.
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin released the following statement after the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General Office released a healthcare inspections report regarding the death of Marine Corps veteran Jason Simcakoski at the Tomah VA Medical Center on August 30, 2014:
“This report confirms that the Tomah VA physicians entrusted with Jason’s care failed to keep their promise to a Wisconsin Marine and his family. I have all the evidence I need to conclude that the VA prescribed Jason a deadly mix of drugs that led to his death and that those responsible for this tragic failure should never again serve our veterans and their families. The sacred trust we have with those who faithfully serve our country has been broken and it needs to be fixed.
“I have introduced bipartisan legislation in Jason’s name that has earned the support of his family and a number of veteran service organizations to provide the VA with the tools it needs to help prevent this type of tragedy from occurring to other veterans and their families. This report highlights the need for the reforms we have proposed to give veterans and their families a stronger voice in their care and put in place stronger oversight and accountability for the quality of care we are providing our veterans. Change is possible and I will continue my fight for it.”
Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, voted in passage of H.R. 1994, the VA Accountability Act, and H.R. 3236, the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act. The VA Accountability Act would reduce red tape at the VA, making it easier for the Secretary of the Veterans Administration (VA) to fire employees who fail in their duty to care for “those who have borne the battle,” while simultaneously making it easier to hire dedicated, and hardworking employees. The Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act would address the VA’s budget shortfall as a result of mismanagement by VA officials. This bill authorizes the transfer of over $3 billion from Veteran’s Choice fund to allow the VA to continue operating for the remainder of the fiscal year. VA Secretary McDonald testified that the VA will close hospitals without Congressional action.
“Those brave women and men who return from serving our country should be able to receive timely access to quality care. That is the very least we can do for our Veterans,” Bilirakis said. “I believe that most employees at the VA are dedicated to their duty and our nation’s heroes. However, wait times persist, and a culture of mediocrity has permeated the VA – too many employees perform terribly and yet, are not fired. Sometimes, these people even continue to collect paychecks while they are suspended,” Bilirakis continued. “The only way to change the culture at the VA is to systematically remove the individuals who are failing our Veterans. Anything less is an affront to our nation’s heroes – a slap in the face to those who have served.”