If you enter Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, you’ll notice a big sign that reads: “Home of Expeditionary Forces in Readiness.” That slogan is actually prominent throughout the base, as well as in publications associated with the base. This name is due in large part to the fact that the base occupies 14 miles of beaches and houses a lot of amphibious assault training. Plus, the United States Marines are Also the “first to fight.” Access to the water makes it easier for the Marines in this location to deploy quickly. There is a bit of irony here. Camp Lejeune was founded because of its location relative to a body of water, but its water supply is why so many people of it now.
From 1953 to 1987, many residents of Camp Lejeune were exposed to contaminated water, and they are suffering the effects now. For more than three decades residents of this base drank and bathed in water that was apparently contaminated by a nearby fuel supply. Not all water sources on the base were impacted, and not everyone who served at this base, or lived there, was exposed. Many of the people who were exposed have cancer and other types of diseases too. This has been public knowledge for most of my life, and yet the VA does not allow Veterans to file for presumptive conditions as a result of Camp Lejeune water contamination. But, that may actually be changing.
First of all, what is a presumptive condition? Veterans familiar with Agent Orange exposure or Gulf War Illness already have a good understanding of what a presumptive condition entails. For the rest of us, though, a presumptive condition is one that the VA claims a Veteran could have if he or she were in a specific place during a specific time. For Vets who served in Vietnam, Diabetes is a presumptive condition. In other words, if you’re a Veteran who served in Vietnam, and have been diagnosed with diabetes, then you don’t have to prove that the condition came from your time in service. The VA assumes that your exposure to Agent Orange is what caused your diabetes. The same is true for certain conditions for Veterans who served in Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East. The VA has an established list of conditions that Veterans may have as a result of their time in-country.
I started working for this firm in 2011. Back then there were talks of the VA creating a Camp Lejeune presumptive list. However, we’re dealing with the government, and they move slower than I do when it comes to an unexpected flight of stairs. Granted, there have been a ton of lawsuits, but not much came of that. Congress got involved a few times, but they’re like the Kim Kardashian of the Government…they’re famous for doing nothing. Then, it kind of went on the backburner for a while. Camp Lejeune talks pretty much stopped. Up until this spring, I worked in our Intake department, and we even started getting fewer calls from Veterans inquiring about Camp Lejeune. Honestly, I had forgotten about Camp Lejeune. I mean, I was still aware of it, and I knew it was an issue, but I didn’t think about it as much Agent Orange or Gulf War Illness. That was until last week.
Friday was a long day for me. I had just returned from vacation earlier in the week, and I was eagerly anticipating my evening of XBOX playing and celebrity bashing on Twitter. While I was a little zoned out at my desk, my coworker Kris Fluharty approached me. His presence made me jump a little. Kris is a VA savant. In fact, he recently passed the VA non-attorney rep test. He knows his stuff. “Jon, I think this would be good for the blog.” He handed me a press release from the VA titled “VA Proposes Rule to Consider Certain Diseases Associated with Exposure to Contaminants in the Water Supply at Camp Lejeune.” Though the title was long I knew it was good news. For one, Kris actually seemed happy about it, and he is normally void of emotion. We were once together when we found out that we were going to have a self-serve chocolate candy bar at our company Christmas party. I squealed with delight, while Kris just said “that’s cool,” and went back to work. So, for Kris to be excited, it was a big deal.
When he handed me the press release, I read it over and asked him what his take on it was. He said that it was good news because the VA is another step closer to making a presumptive list for Camp Lejeune. In fact, they actually have a list of conditions and symptoms they believe are associated with the Camp Lejeune water contamination. According to the press release, the following list applies to active duty, reserve, and National Guard members who served no less than 30 days at Camp Lejeune between August 1st, 1953 and December 31st, 1987. (Marines aren’t the only ones who served at Camp Lejeune.)
It’s important to note that this is not an official presumptive list. If you were a millennial you might say that this is not “Facebook Official” yet. In language adults will understand, it’s not the law yet. It does, however, mean that we are closer than ever before to get this list established, though. It also means that the official list is probably just around the corner. If you served at Camp Lejeune during the periods listed above and have one of the aforementioned conditions, it’s time to get your ducks in a row.
If you haven’t filed a VA disability claim before, this might be the time to do so. To learn more about the possible presumptive conditions, or to schedule a free evaluation, contact us today.