On September 9, 2016, the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) proposed regulation governing the presumption of service connection for veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987. A link to the PDF copy of the proposed regulation can be located at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-09-09/pdf/2016-21455.pdf
The DVA set a thirty (30) day public comment period pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) so the expectation is the final rule will be published on or about October 11, 2016.
For simplicity purposes, a veteran/claimant filing a claim for one of the covered conditions below will need to satisfy the following elements to be entitled to the proposed presumption:
(1) Have service at Camp Lejeune for at least thirty-days (30) between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987. In calculating the 30 days, the DVA will consider both consecutive and non-consecutive days (for example two separate TDYs of 15 days at Camp Lejeune will satisfy that regulatory element). Reserve component and National Guard on inactive duty for training or active duty for training for at least 30 days would also qualify for this specific presumption;
(2) The location of Camp Lejeune covers “the entirety of the United States Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune border” to include Marine Corps Air Station New River;
(3) Has been diagnosed with one of the following conditions: (a) kidney cancer; (b) liver cancer; (c) non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; (d) adult leukemia [not otherwise limited to B-Cell/CLL like the AO presumption]; (e) multiple myeloma; (f) Parkinson’s disease; (g) bladder cancer; (h) aplastic anemia; and (i) myelodysplastic syndromes.
In terms of effective date of award, the proposed regulation sets an effective date of award as the date of final rule and not retroactively. Accordingly, if a veteran has a pending claim or a prior final claim previously denied for one of the above disabilities, I highly recommend that the veteran/claimant speak to there VSO. I suspect, for most, the easiest mechanism will be to file a Fully Developed Claim with a Disability Benefit Questionnaire (http://benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/dbq_ListByDBQFormName.asp) completed for the listed condition immediately after the proposed rule becomes final.
Finally, I realize many folks have been in a gentle disagreement with the DVA regarding their claim for service connection related to Camp Lejeune for years and are concerned about losing an effective date of award. If this is your concern and you just want to triage the issue with me (there will be a discussion of direct service connection and available medical evidence), please don’t hesitate to contact me at (732) 382-6070 or via electronic mail at sdirector@FRE-L.com.