The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced in December 2015 it will propose a presumptive service connection of exposure of Camp Lejeune veterans to contaminated water at the North Carolina Marine Corps base and eight diseases.
Update, September 21, 2016: The VA has published their proposed rule on presumptive diseases for Camp Lejeune veterans. Read More.
Update: This section has been updated with additional information from an adjudication manual update published March 24, 2016 adding bladder cancer to the list of health conditions/diseases for which a disability decision will not be issued until further notice.
These nine proposed presumptive diseases are:
- Kidney Cancer
- Liver Cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Multiple Myeloma
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Aplastic Anemia / Myelodysplastic Syndromes
- Bladder Cancer
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) determined that prolonged exposure to the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune increased the risks of certain health conditions.
“…past exposures from the 1950s through February 1985 to trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), vinyl chloride, and other contaminants in the drinking water at the Camp Lejeune likely increased the risk of cancers (kidney, multiple myeloma, leukemias, and others), adverse birth outcomes, and other adverse health effects of residents (including infants and children), civilian workers, Marines and Naval personnel at Camp Lejeune.”
VA Secretary Robert McDonald, in a statement, noted the delay in recognizing the health problems facing Marine veterans and their family members who were stationed, lived or worked on the base over a 30-plus year period.
“The water at Camp Lejeune was a hidden hazard, and it is only years later that we know how dangerous it was,” McDonald said. “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.”
The proposed regulation change 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. Under the statutory definition of “Veteran”, these personnel would qualify for VA benefits such as:
- VA disability compensation
- VA medical care for any of the presumptive conditions
- Dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) for surviving dependents
- Burial benefits
The VA will continue to decide disability compensation claims based on exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune on a case-by-case basis. 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.
Presumptive benefits will not be awarded until the proposed regulations are final.
Current Eligibility Requirements
- Veteran discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
- Service at Camp Lejeune between August 1953 and December 1987
- Current disease and a medical opinion that states the disease is a result of exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
The VA defines a Veteran as a person who:
- Served in the active military, naval or air service, and
- Was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.
For VA benefit eligibility purposes, minimum active-duty service requirements also apply, with few exceptions.
Title 38, Code of Federal Regulations at 38CFR3.1(d), 38CFR3.12, and 38CFR3.12a
VA Adjudication Manual, M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, Chapter 6, Topic 1 updated December 14, 2015