VA Plans to Approve Benefits for Veterans Exposed to Contaminated
Water at Camp Lejeune
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs
(VA) announced today that it plans to propose expanded disability compensation eligibility for Veterans exposed to contaminated
drinking water while assigned to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
to 1987, water sources at the base were contaminated with industrial solvents that are correlated with certain health conditions.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. 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:
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 December 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
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 August 1, 1953, and December 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.
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.
Veterans who served at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, are already
eligible to receive VA healthcare for up to 15 health conditions.
VA is reimbursing
certain veterans’ family members for eligible out-of-pocket medical expenses related to the 15 covered conditions.