Marines, sailors, and their families who lived and worked at Camp Lejeune from the 1950s to 1980s were exposed to known human carcinogens TCE, Benzene, and Vinyl Chloride in their tap water. Tragically, a significant portion of the people living on base during these years suffered severe health consequences, and many have lost their lives. There is sufficient scientific evidence to associate the water contamination at Camp Lejeune to illness, and it is time for the Department of Defense (DoD) to adequately address this issue and care for those who are suffering as a result.
In a report released on May 2, 2012, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) called on DoD to develop procedures that will enable them to better identify and address potential health risks from past toxic exposures. For one, they recommended that DoD create a policy that outlines instances when it is appropriate to request a new health assessment. As was the case with the exposure at Camp Lejeune, installations often may not become aware of past exposures until long after the initial health assessment took place, and the DoD must have clear guidance as to when they should request an additional health assessment. In addition, DoD should establish concrete guidelines for determining what actions they should take to identify and address any adverse health effects from past exposures at military bases.
I am disappointed that DoD has publicly dismissed GAO's advice, which would yield enhanced care for our nation's military. Whether they are willing to admit it or not, DoD has a responsibility to care for the victims of water contamination at Camp Lejeune, and they must revise their policies to provide that care. Our military and their families have sacrificed so much for our country already, and they should not be forced to suffer more due to DoD's unwillingness to change what clearly is not working.