The Camp Lejeune Justice Act has been making its way through Congress as part of The Honoring our Pact Act created to addresses health care, presumption of service-connection, research, resources, and other matters related to veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during military service.
The Senate voted 84-14 Thursday to pass the Honoring Our PACT Act, H.R. 3967 (117), requiring broadened Department of Veterans Affairs coverage for toxic exposure related to burn pits. The vote brings the bill one step closer to law after years of advocacy from veterans support groups and health care organizations that have argued a range of health conditions from emphysema to glioblastoma, the cancer that killed Biden’s son, retired Major Gen. Beau Biden, can be linked to burn pits used to incinerate toxic waste for years at overseas military locations.
According to Chris Powell of Consumer Safety Watch, “The Senate voted 84-14 Thursday (June 16, 2022) to pass the Honoring Our PACT Act. This includes the The Camp Lejeune Justice Act which made it through the Senate unchanged”
Republican Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Mike Rounds and John Thune of South Dakota, Richard Shelby and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, Mike Lee and Mitt Romney of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, and Mike Crapo and James Risch of Idaho voted against the bill.
The Honoring our Pact Act provides eligibility for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical care, including mental health services and counseling, to veterans who (1) participated in a toxic exposure risk activity (a qualifying activity that requires a corresponding entry in an exposure tracking record system), (2) served in specified locations on specified dates, or (3) deployed in support of a specified contingency operation.
The bill establishes the Formal Advisory Committee on Toxic Exposure to assist with the various procedures in establishing or removing presumptions of service-connection.
The bill modifies or establishes the presumption of service-connection for certain conditions or purposes for various groups of veterans.
Among other requirements, the VA must
– provide a veteran with a medical examination regarding the nexus between a disability and toxic exposure risk activity if a veteran submits a disability compensation claim for a service-connected disability with insufficient evidence,
– incorporate a clinical questionnaire to help determine potential toxic exposures as part of the initial screening conducted for veterans with a VA primary care provider, and
– establish a registry for current or past members of the Armed Forces who may have been exposed to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances due to the environmental release of aqueous film-forming foam at a Department of Defense location.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) said in statement that the House will vote again on the measure, which it passed in March, next week. Biden, who has pushed for recognition of burn pit health risks since the campaign trail, is expected to swiftly sign the bill into law.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act establishes the presumed coverage for certain illnesses and injuries linked to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. For those who served or lived at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune or Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River in North Carolina between 1953 and 1987, it is highly likely that they had contact with contaminants in the drinking water there. Scientific and medical evidence has shown a significant association between exposure to these contaminants during military service and development of certain diseases later in life. Routine water testing found that drinking water sources at Camp Lejeune were contaminated with toxic chemicals including:
– Trichloroethylene (TCE)
– Perchloroethylene (PCE)
– Vinyl Chloride (VC)
The above contaminants are known carcinogens and are proven to be harmful to humans.
Injuries and Illnesses Linked to Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune
Exposure to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune has been scientifically and medically linked to the following injuries and illnesses:
– Aplastic Anemia
– Bladder Cancer
– Cardiac Defects
– Kidney Cancer
– Liver Cancer
– Multiple Myeloma
– Myelodysplastic Syndrome
– Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
– Parkinson’s Disease
– Systemic Sclerosis/Scleroderma
Additionally, there is a connection between drinking and exposure to water Camp Lejeune and the following injuries and illnesses:
– Breast Cancer
– Esophageal Cancer
– Female Infertility
– Hepatic Steatosis
– Lung Cancer
– Neurobehavioral Effects
– Renal Toxicity Scleroderma
If all goes according to schedule, the Honoring our Pact Act and Camp Lejeune Justice Act will be law as soon as next week. This has been a long time coming for so many of our veterans who have been willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country while their country has for far too long turned their back on them when they needed support in return.