It took 4 years for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to identify presumptive service-connection for certain diseases associated with contaminants in the base water supply at Camp Lejeune. A proposed rule published in the Federal Register on September 9, 2016 allows veterans, advocates and the general public a short 32-day window to submit comments on the proposed changes to federal regulation.
UPDATE – JANUARY 13, 2017
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has finalized a rule for presumptive service-connection of eight diseases associated with contaminants in the water supply at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987. Learn More
The VA did not accept all of the possible diseases covered by VA health care as presumptive service-connected for disability compensation, instead narrowing their scope to cover only eight diseases in their proposal. While discouraging and long overdue, there is an additional piece of good news for veterans. Under the proposed rule former Reservists and former National Guard members will be considered veterans for the eight presumptive diseases, provided the service requirement at Camp Lejeune is met.
Here is a snapshot of the proposed rule:
Who: Veterans, former Reservists and former National Guard members
When: Service between August 1, 1953 to December 31, 1987 for 30 or more days (consecutive or non-consecutive)
Where: Within the borders of the entirety of the United States Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina.
What: Eight diseases presumed service-connected disabilities for purposes of entitlement to VA benefits:
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Adult leukemia
- Multiple myeloma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
Which claims: Disability compensation claims filed with the VA on or after the date of publication of the final rule in the Federal Register and claims pending before the VA on that date. No retroactive provision is included in this proposed regulation change. If a claim was previously and finally denied, a new claim to obtain a new determination under the final regulation could be filed.
Read the entire proposed rule at https://federalregister.gov/a/2016-21455.
Comments are due on or before October 11, 2016. Submit online comments via www.Regulations.gov or https://federalregister.gov/a/2016-21455 for “RIN 2900-AP66 – Diseases Associated with Exposure to Contaminants in the Water Supply at Camp Lejeune.”
More on the Proposed Rule
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) collaborated with the VA’s Camp Lejeune Science Liaison Team (CLSLT) when developing the proposed presumptive conditions. ATSDR reported its evaluation of the available scientific literature regarding the potential hazards generally associated with the contaminants found in the water at Camp Lejeune. The contaminants of interest were trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene and vinyl chloride. The main source of TCE, a metal degreaser, was on-base industrial activities, and the main source of PCE was an off-base dry cleaning facility.
The CLSLT then presented its own independent review of the scientific literature and discussions with ATSDR to the VA Technical Workgroup (TWG).
The TWG then conducted an additional assessment of the scientific evidence. The TWG concluded the evidence “was not strong enough” to establish a positive association between any of the contaminants of interest and the development of:
- Breast cancer
- Lung cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Renal toxicity
- Hepatic steatosis
- Female infertility or miscarriage
Based on the TWG assessment none of the above diseases or conditions made the final list as a presumptive service-connection for Camp Lejeune veterans under the proposed rule.