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On Monday, President Barack Obama signed a new health care bill that will finally give Marine Corps veterans and their families from North Carolina's Camp Lejeune some much needed relief and recognition. The "Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012” [HR 1627] will provided necessary health benefits for veterans and their families suffering from medical conditions caused by water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
Also known as “Janey Ensminger's Bill” named after the 9 year old daughter of Master Sargeant Jerry Ensminger who passed away in the early 1980s from leukemia caused by the water contamination.
“[S]adly, this act alone will not bring back those we've lost, including Jane Ensminger, but it will honor their memory by making a real difference for those who are still suffering,” said President Obama at the signing of HR 1627.
For 30 years, between January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1987, the health of veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune was put at considerable risk from water contaminated by hazardous chemicals. Drinking water was infected by trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent; tetrachloroethylene, used primarily as a dry cleaning agent and metal component degreaser; benzene; and vinyl chloride.
Though it has not been publicly confirmed by the Marine Corps or the Federal government, many suspect that underground storage containers of these chemicals leached into Camp Lejeune's drinking water.
Up until the passage of the bill, advocates have been lobbying on behalf of those adversely affected by the contamination. Now, their efforts will provide hospital care and medical services for the medical conditions caused by the contamination.
15 diseases are now covered, and include esophageal cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, leukemia, multiple myeloma, myleodysplasic syndromes, renal toxicity, hepatic steatosis, female infertility, miscarriage, scleroderma, neurobehavioral effects and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
This medical coverage extends to family members who lived at Camp Lejeune. To be considered eligible for these medical benefits, veterans and their families must have lived on the base for a minimum of 30 consecutive days any time during the 30 year period.
The Camp Lejeune Marine Corps veterans now must wait for the Department of Veterans Affairs to figure out how to execute the new bill.
In addition to the contaminated drinking water, Camp Lejeune veterans have been exposed to asbestos. Also a cancer-causing agent, exposure to asbestos can lead to developing mesothelioma, a lethal form of cancer that can affect the protective lining in the lungs, heart or abdominal cavity.
Resources for Mesothelioma Patients and their Families
- Request a Free Mesothelioma Treatment Guide
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- Locate the Nearest Comprehensive Cancer Center