National, State Groups Back Health Care for Camp Lejeune Vets, Families

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, June 23, 2011

Washington, D.C. – Veterans and their families made ill by contaminated well water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina should not have to fight to get medical care and services.

Environmental Working Group sent a letter signed by environmental advocate Erin Brockovich and 22 national and state organizations representing more than 16 million people to the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs in support of the "Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act of 2011," introduced by Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).

Click here to see the letter.

The Burr-Hagan bill would provide health care for service members and families stationed on base who drank, bathed and cooked with water contaminated by toxic and carcinogenic chemicals. The legislation aims to help those suffering from exposure-related illnesses or disabilities who need hospital care, medical services and nursing home care.

More than 60 Lejeune veterans have been diagnosed with male breast cancer, and many more are suffering from rare forms of cancer, leukemia and other debilitating diseases. High incidences of birth defects, developmental and childhood illnesses are evidence of in utero exposure to chemicals found in the camp's water.

In additional to national organizations, nine North Carolina-based organizations have signed the letter, including Environment North Carolina, North Carolina Conservation Network, Sierra Club North Carolina and Clean Water for North Carolina.

Jerry Ensminger, a Camp Lejeune veteran who lost his 9-year-old daughter Janey to leukemia and whose efforts are detailed in the award-winning documentary Semper Fi: Always Faithful, has pledged the support of his organization, The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten.

"The environmental and public interest communities are calling on our leaders in Congress to come to the aid of these brave Americans, who are still waiting for justice and for the answers they deserve," said Heather White, EWG chief of staff and general counsel.

Currently, military veterans and families with health problems they believe may be linked to toxic chemical exposure at Lejeune are not being afforded adequate health benefits. Hundreds of veterans have filed claims for disability compensation through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs but only a handful of their applications have been approved.

Camp Lejeune's pollution is the largest incident of environmental contamination at any U.S. military facility on record. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, between 1957 to 1987 at least 500,000 people may have been exposed to a host of toxic chemicals, including known human carcinogens benzene and vinyl chloride, as well as perchloroethylene, a dry-cleaning agent, and trichloroethylene, a degreaser.