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JACKSONVILLE, NC (WWAY) — Another victory for veterans made sick by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced those victims will receive disability benefits.

The VA will begin the process of granting “presumptive disability” status to veterans who have certain cancers and conditions from long term exposure to the chemicals that contaminated the base water system from 1953-1987. The VA is conceding that it will no longer deny benefits to eligible veterans based on VA’s faulty and selective interpretations of science.  The VA’s use of “presumptive status” means the benefit of the doubt goes to the veteran as long as VA determines they meet eligibility requirements.

Jerry Ensminger said it’s about time. Ensminger began working to get answers about the base’s water after his daughter Janey died of cancer. He says he discovered his daughter’s cancer came from long term exposure to chemicals that contaminated base water.

“This has been a fight all the way, all along,” said Ensminger. “This has been an 18 year effort for me.”

In 2012 President Obama signed a bill named after his daughter Janey, giving health care to marines who got sick from the water. But Ensminger says the VA wasn’t making it easy for veterans who were exposed to the tainted tap water, to get those benefits.

“To get service connected benefits they had to jump through all these hoops and go through the VA’s claims process,” said Ensminger. “It was a joke.”

But now after the announcement veterans affected by the toxic tap water will have an easier time receiving benefits.

“It’s a great feeling. It’ll be a great sigh of relief for a lot of Camp Lejeune veterans and their families,” said Ensminger.

Some of those people Ensminger thanks for the help are Senator Richard Burr and Senator Thom Tillis.

According to a release the senators pressured the VA to acknowledge the Center for Disease Control and other scientific bodies’ findings that showed the water was making people sick.

“I’m disappointed that we had to pressure the VA to do the right thing for our veterans in the first place,” said Burr. “The scientific research is strong and the widespread denials of benefits will soon end. Now, these veterans and their families members will not have to fight for benefits they are due.”

Senators Burr and Tillis recently met with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald and the Director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to talk about ways the VA could begin providing benefits to veterans with diseases caused by the poisoned water at Camp Lejeune.

“I look forward to seeing the commitment Secretary McDonald gave me realized without unnecessary delay and I credit him and Dr. Breysse of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry for their commitment to righting this wrong,” said Burr.

“The evidence has been accumulating for years now – many of those who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune in years past developed certain diseases after exposure to contaminated drinking water. Compensating these victims, our Nation’s heroes and their families, is simply the right thing to do and I commend Secretary McDonald for taking this bold step for responsible government,” said Tillis.


Comment on this Story

  • JackJS

    I was in the Marine Corps from 1970 to the end of 1971 and served at Camp Lejeune during that time. I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015, it is one of the of the 8 out of 15 chosen diseases that is recognized to receive automatic approval for benefits. I have completed radiation treatments for my condition at this date. I sent the VA all my medical history as I was instructed to. I am confused because I continue to read various articles stating that the 8 conditions chosen by the Secretary of the VA are automatically granted benefits, if that is true, then why am I still waiting for the VA review board to approve my situation? The VA has reported the situation on the official VA site, what I never read is a definitive example of actual action being taken to provide benefits-Senators Burr and Tillis are saying a lot of the right things and complimenting Secretary McDonald and I believe they are sincere, yet, no action has been taken so far, which is to say, the VA acknowledges they have all the necessary my records and no action has been taken in months. The last time I checked the three words out ”AUTOMATICALLY GRANTED CONDITIONS,” mean Automatically in the sense of no waiting, not to be debated or delayed.
    I am 66 years old a retired High School teacher from Ohio, I would have been fired if I processed the grades of my students at the same speed the VA processes these matters. I have many veteran friends and have listened to their numerous stories regarding jumping through hoops, benefit denials and appeals stories, I can see why some Vets obtain the services of lawyers and why some Vets die before they see the first benefit. I’ve lived without the benefits, I have a decent retirement, I am grateful the VA exists and does well by many Vets for general matters, it is an enormously large organization and perhaps that’s the biggest problem.
    I am not the most technical person alive, but, the VA might want to program their computers and eliminate undue processing and waiting time for veterans, for example, if it’s described as something that’s automatic then don’t go through a Medical review by a board of doctors to approve it, because in my common sense mind, only one Doctor needs to open my file to determine Yes or No regarding my medical condition, and maybe one Administrator to determine Yes or No I served at Camp Lejeune on a date that satisfies that criteria. In other words, all someone has to do is read my records to know, A. I have Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, B. Read proof of having been stationed at Camp Lejeune.
    Thanks for listening.

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