February 2, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt. Shaft
Have you heard of any updates on VA Claims for vets who were exposed to contaminated water at camp Lejune?

George B
Via the internet

Dear George
The latest from the VA is their plan to propose expanded disability compensation eligibility for Veterans exposed to contaminated drinking water while assigned to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

From 1953 to 1987, water sources at the base were contaminated with industrial solvents that are correlated with certain health conditions.  VA Secretary Bob McDonald decided to propose presumptions of service connection for certain conditions associated with these chemical solvents following discussions between environmental health experts at the Veterans Health Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

“The water at Camp Lejeune was a hidden hazard, and it is only years later that we know how dangerous it was,” said Secretary McDonald.  “We thank ATSDR for the thorough review that provided much of the evidence we needed to fully compensate Veterans who develop one of the conditions known to be related to exposure to the compounds in the drinking water.”

ATSDR determined that the drinking water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene, vinyl chloride, benzene and other petroleum contaminants from leaking storage tanks from 1953 to 1987.  ATSDR also determined that prolonged exposure to these chemicals increases the risk of certain health conditions.

Based upon VA’s review of current medical science and ATSDR’s findings, Secretary McDonald intends to propose creation of a presumption of service connection for the following conditions:

  • Kidney Cancer
  • Liver Cancer
  • Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
  • Leukemia
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Scleroderma
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Aplastic Anemia / Myelodysplastic Syndromes

The secretary’s proposal would also expand benefits eligibility to Reserve and National Guard personnel who served at Camp Lejeune for any length of time from August 1, 1953, through Dec. 31, 1987.   These personnel would be presumed to have been exposed to the contaminated water during their Reserve or National Guard service and, in appropriate circumstances, to have been disabled by such exposure during service, thus allowing them to qualify for VA benefits under the statutory definition of “Veteran.”

This would make them eligible for VA disability compensation and medical care for any of the presumptive conditions, and their surviving dependents would be eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation and burial benefits.

VA is working on regulations that would establish these presumptions, making it easier for affected Veterans to receive VA disability compensation for these conditions.  While VA cannot grant any benefit claims based on the proposed presumption of service connection for these conditions until it issues its final regulations, it encourages Veterans who have a record of service at Camp Lejeune between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987, and develop a condition that they believe is related to exposure to the drinking water at the base, to file a disability compensation claim with VA.

VA will continue to grant claims for disabilities claimed to be associated with exposure to the contaminants that can be granted under current regulations and review of the evidence in each case. If a claim for service connection for one of the proposed presumptive conditions would be denied under current regulations, the denial will be stayed until VA issues its final regulations. VA will announce when the regulations are final and presumptive benefits can begin to be awarded. For more information on applying for these benefits, visit this website.

Veterans who served at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987, are already eligible to receive VA healthcare for up to 15 health conditions.  More information, including a full list of covered conditions, can be found online at this website.

Veterans can establish eligibility for healthcare benefits by submitting VA Form 10-10EZ online at www.1010ez.med.va.gov/, downloading it at www.va.gov/vaforms/medical/pdf/1010EZ-fillable.pdf and returning it to any VA Medical Center or Clinic, or by calling 1-877-222-VETS (8387), Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time).

VA is reimbursing certain veterans’ family members for eligible out-of-pocket medical expenses related to the 15 covered conditions. More information can be found at this website.

Shaft Notes
Ten Student Veterans of America (SVA) leaders have been selected to join more than 500 members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. when they storm Capitol Hill, Feb. 28 to March 3, on behalf of all veterans, service members and their families. The fellowship selections were announced this morning at SVA’s 8th National Conference in Orlando, Fla.

The VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship is a semester-long academic experience that involves research, action, reporting and advocating on behalf of one of four veterans’ issues: success in higher education; access to health care; the impact of sequestration on the military; and transitioning from military to civilian life.

During their visit to Washington, each fellow will be paired with a VFW mentor and accompany their VFW state delegation around Capitol Hill for in-person meetings with their members of Congress.

The 10 selected fellows for 2016 are:

  • Michael Aavang, Marine Corps veteran, Hillsdale College
  • Robert Davis, Navy veteran, North Lake College
  • Stephen Hudson, Marine Corps veteran, Southeast Missouri State University
  • Paulo Iparraguirre, Navy veteran, California State University Northridge
  • Robert Janice, Marine Corps veteran, Arizona State University
  • Rebekah Lloyd, Army veteran, Regent University
  • Deanna Parker, Marine Corps veteran, Marywood University
  • Charles Pegg, Army veteran, University of North Dakota
  • Daniel Snedden, Army veteran, North Carolina State University
  • Benjamin Wocken, Air Force veteran, University of Missouri-Columbia

The VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship program is one of the latest examples of collaboration between the two organizations that was formalized in 2013 with a memorandum of understanding. To interview any of the 10 selected fellows, contact Ryan Gallucci from the VFW at rgallucci@vfw.org or Jessica Coscia from SVA jessica.coscia@studentveterans.org.



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