On August 3, 2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released a press release entitled, “VA Expands Review of Chemical Exposure in Drinking Water at Marine Corps Base[,] Camp Lejeune.” The link to the press release can be located at http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2720.
In short, the VA is considering adding three conditions as presumptive for service at Camp Lejeune as, follows: (1) kidney cancer; (2) angiosarcoma of the liver; and (3) acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). I presume the VA will simply add a regulatory provision to 38 C.F.R. § 3.309, but just an educated guess. I would also caution that I would not expect any regulatory action from the VA in the immediate future.
For review, the issue concerns a class of chemicals that was leaking into the water table at Camp Lejeune between the 1950s and 1987, called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The VOCS include Vinyl Chloride, Trichloroenthylene (TCE), Perchloroethylene (PERC), and . . . disclosed after an initial 2009 Institute of Medicine (IOM) study . . . benzene. The VA really did not consider the issue of chemical exposure at Camp Lejeune until 2010 as the Department of Navy actually began releasing long-known information to the general public. The period of potential exposure was long, the number of potentially effected service members and dependent family members was huge, the known rate of exposure is complicated, and amount of chemicals involved was significant. Accordingly, the issue has been a complex one for the IOM, ATSDR, and VA.
In 2012, Congress enacted the Caring for Camp Lejeune Family Act of 2012, which provided presumptive eligibility before the Veterans Healthcare Administration (VHA) for 15 conditions. As we have attempted to clarify to many veterans over the years, these were presumptive conditions for healthcare purposes and not issues pertaining the benefits before the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). I believe the IOM has a pending study that was first to be release the Summer of 2013, but has been delayed for further evidence.
Currently, the VA considers each issue on a direct-service connection basis (i.e. for simplicity purposes the following elements: (1) evidence of exposure in service; (2) current diagnosis of a claimed chronic disability; and (3) evidence of a causal relationship between the claimed condition and exposure in service).
If you have questions concerning Title 38 benefits for Camp Lejeune veterans, please don’t hesitate to contact me at (732) 382-6070 or via email at sdirector@FRE-L.com.