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Gaining the High Ground: Veterans' Disability Claims
Linked to the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

"For over 221 years our Corps has done two things for this great Nation. We make Marines, and we win battles."

– Gen. Charles C. Krulak, USMC (5 May 1997).

Marine veterans must now apply that same aggression and tenacity to developing their disability compensation and pension claims before the Department of Veterans Affairs. On August 6, 2012, President Obama signed an historic bill that would help generations of sick Marine veterans and their families who were exposed to contaminated water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.

This bill provides for medical care to be provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs for fifteen presumptive conditions linked to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. It applies to fifteen ailments, including: cancer of the esophagus, lung, breast, bladder or kidney; leukemia; multiple myeloma; myleodysplasic syndromes; renal toxicity; hepatic steatosis; female infertility; miscarriage; scleroderma; neurobehavioral effects; and non–Hodgkin lymphoma.

While this bill provides for presumptive conditions for the purposes of the Veteran Healthcare Administration, these presumptions do not apply to claims filed before the Veterans Benefits Administration, including disability pension and compensation claims. Consequently, while the bill is an important first step for Marines and their family members who have faced a myriad of ailments due to their exposure to the contaminated water, the future is still uncertain for veterans who have claims pending for disability compensation for conditions related to the contaminated water exposure. Veterans must still demonstrate that their current disability is service connected without the benefit of any statutory presumptions.

Recent statistics from the VA's Louisville Regional Office on Camp Lejeune's disability compensation claims show an 84% denial rate for medical conditions claimed to be linked to the water contamination.

 

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