The Obama administration on Thursday announced that the Veterans Administration will provide disability benefits to veterans exposed to contaminated well water while serving at Camp Lejeune. Eligible are those who served for at least 30 days at the Marine Corps Base in Onslow County from 1953 to 1987 and have been diagnosed with one of eight diseases.
The victory for veterans and their families (as many as 900,000) marks the end of a long road for Richard Burr, North Carolina’s senior senator. Below is the text of his Senate floor speech introducing legislation to rectify the matter. Burr gave the speech over seven years ago, on July 27, 2009.
Mr. President, I rise today to introduce legislation that will ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs provides health care to veterans and their families who were stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina during the years when the base’s well water was contaminated by numerous known and probable human carcinogens.
Thousands of Navy and Marine veterans and their families who lived on Camp Lejeune have fallen ill with a variety of cancers and diseases believed to be attributable to their service at the base in the years before the EPA designated the base as a Superfund site in 1988.
A recent National Research Council report on the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune assessed that there are numerous adverse health effects associated with human exposure to the chemicals known to have been in water at Lejeune that was used for drinking and bathing.
Many years have passed while Lejeune veterans and their families have waited for some hope of progress on this issue. Some have died waiting.
Today, there is much that we now know that was not known in the past, especially a growing body of scientific information about the adverse effects these chemicals have on the human body.
The Lejeune veterans and their families deserve clarity on the cause of their conditions and closure on this tragic situation. It is vitally important we give those who are sick the benefit of the doubt. If a veteran or military family member was stationed at Camp Lejeune during the time the water was contaminated, they should be able to come in to a VA medical center for needed health care. This bill is a step toward providing the veterans of Lejeune and their loved ones with the respect they deserve. Quite frankly, it is the morally right thing to do.