The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a historic bill on Wednesday July 18th intended to help thousands of sick Marine veterans and family members exposed to contaminated water from 1957 to 1987 at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps Base in N.C.
“These families have waited for decades to get the assistance that they need and should not be forced to wait any longer,” Murray said from the Senate floor.
Last month, the House of Representatives and Senate veterans committees agreed on a bill that would provide health care to sick military personnel and their family members provided they’d lived or worked at least 30 days on the base from 1957 to 1987 and have a condition related to exposure to these chemicals. The conditions are listed in the bill along with modifications to prevent fraudulent claims.
The Senate made some last minute changes to include language from existing laws that provides exceptions if a doctor can prove that the person didn’t contract the illness from the base’s contaminated water. For example, if the person had the illness before being at Camp Lejeune.
The changes ended a standoff between DeMint and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who was the lead sponsor of the measure.
“This has been a long time coming, and unfortunately many who were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune over the years have died as a result and are not with us to receive the care this bill can provide,” Burr said in a statement. “While I wish we could have accomplished this years ago, we now have the opportunity to do the right thing for the thousands of Navy and Marine veterans and their families who were harmed during their service to our country.”
The measure is expected is expected to be voted on by the House in August, and is intended to help as many as 750,000 veterans and their families who were exposed to drinking water that was poisoned with trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, benzene and vinyl chloride.
“This is a huge first step,” said Mike Partain of Tallahassee, Fla., who lived at Camp Lejeune as an infant. “We’ve been waiting for over 15 years for a resolution to this.”
Partain, who’s now 44, learned 5 years ago that he had breast cancer. Partain was born at Camp Lejeune, where his father was a Marine officer. Fewer than 2,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, but Partain said he’d since found 80 male breast cancer patients from across the country with connections to Camp Lejeune.
- New documents released in Lejeune water-contamination case (newsobserver.com)
- Senate passes Camp Lejeune water-contamination bill (kansascity.com)
- Closer Than Ever to Justice for Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Victims (pogoblog.typepad.com)