The Obama administration has agreed to provide more than $2 billion worth of disability benefits to veterans who were exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Up to 900,000 service members were potentially exposed to the ground water containing the volatile organic compounds: trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, benzene and vinyl chloride. Contact and consumption of the water has been linked to adult leukemia, aplastic anemia, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as well as Parkinson’s disease.
According to a document published in the federal register, any veteran that was stationed at the Marine base for at least 30 cumulative days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 and is suffering from one of the eight diseases linked to the water will be eligible. The estimated taxpayer cost of $2.2 billion is expected to be paid out over a five-year span.
Federal records show that Marine leaders were aware of the contaminants but were slow to act on this information. Evidence of the contamination was discovered in the early 1980’s, leading to the closure of some of the drinking water wells in 1984 and 1985. The documents show that the water was contaminated by fuel leaking from on-base tanks and chemicals from an off-base dry cleaner. The Marine Corps claims the contamination was unintentional and that it occurred when federal law didn’t place limits on toxins in drinking water.
In 2012, a bill was signed into law by President Obama to extend free V.A. medical care to affected veterans and their family members. However, veterans were not automatically provided disability aid or survivor benefits. According to the V.A., approximately 1,400 disability claims are already pending. Cash payouts are expected to begin in March of 2017 as a supplement to the health care already being provided to those affected.