Friday, March 17, 2017

New Federal Ruling May Provide Additional Benefits to Maine Veterans

The Department of Veterans' Affairs to provide disability benefits as a result of contaminated water supply 

AUGUSTA - Governor Paul R. LePage joined the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) this week to announce expanded support for veterans affected by contaminated drinking water at North Carolina's Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base.

The VA has pledged to provide disability benefits for diseases associated with exposure to contaminants in the water supply at Camp Lejeune to active duty, reserve and National Guard members who served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987. This ruling is similar to the latent Agent Orange ruling that now provides disability benefit compensation and healthcare to Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange herbicide while serving in and around Vietnam.

Governor LePage expressed concern about how Maine veterans affected by this ruling will be cared for and informed of this information. "Since there's no way of truly knowing how many veterans and family members currently living in Maine have been affected by the contamination at Camp Lejeune and now may have access to treatment under this new ruling, I strongly encourage anyone who was stationed at Camp Lejeune to contact the Bureau of Veterans' Services."

The VA has identified eight additional diseases associated with exposure to contaminants in the water supply. They are:

Adult leukemia Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes Bladder cancer Kidney cancer Liver cancer Multiple myeloma Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma Parkinson's disease

The area included in this presumption is all of Camp Lejeune and MCAS New River, including satellite camps and housing areas.

Adria Horn, the Director of the Bureau of Veterans' Services stated, "For veterans whose claims have been denied, are appealing the VA's decision about their claim, or who are awaiting a decision on a pending claim, I strongly encourage you to make an appointment with a Veteran Service Officer to personally review your claim. If you have never filed a claim, but suspect that you or your family member may be affected by the water at Camp Lejeune, please come see us or visit your local Veteran Services' Organization. This ruling and these presumptive conditions have been long in the making and there are many veterans no longer here today who paved the way for this ruling."

The VA's recent ruling complements the health care and disability compensation already provided for 15 illnesses or conditions as part of the "Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012". The Camp Lejeune Act requires the VA to provide health care to Veterans, who served at Camp Lejeune, and to reimburse family members - or pay providers - for medical expenses for those who resided there for not fewer than 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987.

In the early 1980s, volatile organic compounds, trichloroethylene (TCE), a metal degreaser, and perchloroethylene (PCE), a dry cleaning agent, as well as benzene and vinyl chloride, were discovered in two on-base water supply systems at Camp Lejeune. The contaminated wells supplying the water systems were shut down in February 1985.

For full text of the press release, please visit www.maine.gov/veterans. Please contact mainebvs@maine.gov or call 207-430-6035 for additional information.

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