Today, U.S. Senator Burr (R-NC) introduced a bill that would expand the eligibility timeframe for the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012. Current law extends health care to veterans and their family members who have certain diseases and conditions as a result of exposure to contaminated well-water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina from 1957 to the 1980s. As a result of recent scientific findings, this bill would extend care to individuals exposed to contaminated water as early as 1953.
In January of this year, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) sent a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) informing VA that there is sufficient data to substantiate that water contamination at Camp Lejeune exceeded safe levels for human consumption as early as August, 1953. Prior to this finding, the earliest year of confirmed contamination was 1957. Confirming that human carcinogens were present in the water as early as 1953 will give recourse to veterans and family members who served and lived on the base and have experienced adverse health effects due to their exposure to the contaminated water, but have been denied health care.
"There are veterans out there, some of them in dire straits, who have been waiting a long time for these findings," Senator Burr said. "Until now, VA has been unable to help them. It is my hope that Congress will act quickly to pass this bill to get them the care they deserve. This is also good news for veterans' family members who are eligible for health care under the law enacted last year. These men and women have been suffering through no fault of their own and we owe them the care they need without delay."
"It is our responsibility to care for the Marines and their families who were exposed to contaminated water aboard Camp Lejeune," said Senator Hagan. "After working with Senator Burr for years to pass the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act, I am proud to say that bill is now law. However, new findings about the timeframe during which wells were contaminated means we must act to update the law. I will continue working with Senator Burr and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make this important update so that veterans and their families that deserve care can access it."
"Families impacted by the contamination at Camp Lejeune have waited long enough for these funds," Senator Rubio said. "Congress must act now to help the veterans and families that were impacted by these unfortunate conditions and that have unfairly been forced to cover the resulting costs."
"We simply have to do what is right for our veterans and their families," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), a senior member of the Armed Services Committee.
The legislation was introduced with 3 cosponsors: U.S. Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bill Nelson (D-FL).