Disability claims related to water contamination at Camp Lejeune will be handled at the VA center in Louisville, Ky. A community panel charged with addressing Lejeune’s water issues recently heard from Brad Flohr, a Veterans Benefits Administration Compensation and Pension Service Department representative.
Flohr told the panel the Louisville center would track the cases and develop a dependable procedure to follow all cases.
Those who lived or were stationed at Lejeune from the 1950s through the 1980s have attributed some diseases, such as male breast cancer and non-Hodgkins lymphoma, to water contamination. They assert that the water contained chemicals. Therefore, they want the VA to implement a VA presumptive policy on water cases, much like the one for veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
However, the National Research Council (NRC) completed a report in 2009 that did not find sufficient evidence linking contaminated water at Lejeune to disease. The report also stated further research was not likely to find clearer results.
But then Chris Portier, director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), had something to say about the research. In a letter, Portier bashed NRC’s report for failing to weigh benzene, a carcinogen. Portier said Lejeune’s water was “undoubtedly a hazard.”
So far, 200 Lejeune veterans filed disability claims based on water contamination. Twenty of those have been approved. To give the staff some background information on the contamination, Flohr said he would visit the Louisville center.
Claims related Lejeune’s water will be tracked starting in February through an electronic system, Flohr said. Even the final decision on the claim will be tracked. As of right now, the VA has no intention of reviewing claims that were denied.
ATSDR officials cited studies that the Navy funded. Among the five studies is a health survey of former Lejeune residents and mortality study. VA officials brought up the possibility of further examining a group of 66 men who developed male breast cancer while living at Lejeune. The Environmental Protection Agency will soon release a study that will probably deem TCE, a major Lejeune contaminant, a known human carcinogen. If so, the EPA study could bolster the chances of water-related claims getting presumptive status.
For more information, see this Fact Sheet released by the VA.
Photo thanks to lady_lush under creative common license on Flickr.