Bill to Help Camp Lejeune Tainted Water Victims Clears Senate Committee

Described as the worst drinking water contamination in United States history, <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/Camp-Lejeune-Benzene-Poisoning">Camp Lejeune water impacted some one million people from the 1950s to the mid-1980s with exposure to dangerous, often carcinogenic chemicals including benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and vinyl chloride. The Department of the Navy eventually blamed this environmentally catastrophic exposure on an off-base dry cleaner.

Now, says the Miami Herald, legislation was approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee this week that would provide health care to the thousands of Marine veterans and their families who lived on the toxic North Carolina base. The bill still must go through the full Senate and the House of Representatives, the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs oppose the bill, the Obama White House has not given its position on the bill, and Congress must appropriate money for the measure, noted the Miami Herald.

As we’ve explained, the proposed law is meant to help some, not all, alleged victims of toxic water at Camp Lejeune and would allow veterans and family members whose health was endangered by Camp Lejeune’s tainted water to receive health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. If it becomes law, the bill would create a presumptive link between contaminated drinking water and certain diseases that have plagued veterans and their families who lived at Camp Lejeune the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s.

Some medical experts have connected the Camp Lejeune contamination to birth defects, childhood leukemia, and other cancers, noted Miami Herald.

Companion legislation, The Janey Ensminger Act was filed in the House by Representative Brad Miller (Democrat-North Carolina); that bill is still in committee, said the Miami Herald.

Good headway was made this week for the Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act of 2011, sponsored by Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, senior Republican on the Veterans Affairs Committee, said the Miami Herald. “It’s significant. I was elated,” said retired Marine Staff Sergeant Jerry Ensminger, of White Lake, North Carolina. Ensminger lobbied Congress for over 12 years, prompted by his daughter’s illness and death.

The Miami Herald explained that this week’s approval “turned” on a deal Burr made with the Veteran Affairs Committee’s Democratic chairwoman, Senator Patty Murray of Washington that would have mandated the VA to offer care for illnesses linked to Camp Lejeune. Murray feels the Defense Department, the entity allegedly responsible for the contamination at Camp Lejeune, should foot the costs; Burr and others feel the onus should fall with the VA for actual care.

While well intentioned and certainly a boon to Camp Lejeune’s poisoned water, many argue that the legislation does not provide for civilians who worked at the base during the contamination.

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