harmed by tainted water at Camp Lejeune are finally getting justice.
A new regulation announced by the Department of Veterans Affairs Friday will allow cash payouts to supplement VA health care already being provided, The Associated Press reported, for veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune who developed one of eight diseases because of the tainted water: adult leukemia, aplastic anemia, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Parkinson’s disease.
The compensation applies to any service member stationed at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more from 1953 to 1987. This consists mainly of and sailors, but could include or personnel.
They will eligible to receive a portion of government disability benefits totaling more than $2 billion.
This is overdue. As we said here three years ago, “For decades, the government, both and civilian, either stonewalled or ignored health complaints.”
U.S. Sen. Burr of Winston-Salem, a Republican, pressed the issue with the VA. Former Sen. Kay Hagan and former N.C. Rep. Brad Miller, both Democrats, also worked hard.
“It’s about time,” Burr said in a press release. “These veterans put their lives on the line for our nation and they were negligently poisoned by the government. We know that toxic water at Lejeune caused a host of debilitating medical conditions that service members are suffering and dying from. These men and women deserve this help.”
This assistance is long overdue. The drinking water was contaminated in the 1980s and has been known to be so since at least 1997, when a report was first issued. have had to suffer through a massive amount of red tape and politics to get their due.
The VA estimates that as many as 900,000 service members were potentially exposed to the tainted water, the AP reported.
Many of them had family members who were affected, too, like the daughter of retired Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, whose was born in 1976 while he was stationed at Lejeune and died from leukemia at age 9, according to press reports. Burr and the VA need to make sure compensation is provided for them, too.
At least 35 children whose families were stationed at Camp Lejeune were born with neural tube defects and 42 with oral clefts, and another 29 developed childhood hematopoietic cancers, according to a study from an agency of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This has been a hard, long slog,” Ensminger told the AP. “This is not the end of the issue.”
Ensminger now heads a veterans group, The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten, which advocates for those seeking disability compensation. We doubt he’s going to let the issue fade away.
And neither should the government. Overall, we’ve done a good job honoring our vets. But there have been times when our treatment of them has been less than admirable.
They’ve given their all for us. We can’t let them down now.