Senate Passes Landmark Bill for Camp Lejeune Families

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For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, July 19, 2012

Washington, D.C. – Late yesterday, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill that furnishes health care benefits to veterans and their families made ill from polluted drinking water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

The bipartisan Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act provides care and medical services through the Department of Veterans Affairs to those who lived on the base while the water was contaminated with toxic chemicals and who now suffer from exposure-related illnesses. The bill is in large part a product of the tireless advocacy by former Marine Jerry Ensminger, whose daughter Janey passed away from leukemia at age nine. Ensminger’s efforts to uncover the contamination inspired an award-winning film and prompted Congress to take action on behalf of hundreds of thousands across the country.

“If passage of this historic legislation proves anything it’s that one man can truly make a difference no matter how great the odds,” said Alex Rindler, policy associate at the Environmental Working Group. “Jerry’s dogged determination to achieve justice for these families who have sacrificed so much is an inspiration not only to people who have dedicated to serving the public interest, but to all Americans. Simply put: he’s a modern day hero.”

EWG commends the leadership of Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), who, along with Mike Partain and other affected community members, have been fighting for Camp Lejeune veterans and their families since the get-go.

Almost 80 men who lived or were born at Camp Lejeune have been diagnosed with male breast cancer. EWG has urged Congress and the Obama administration to stand up for these men and their dependent children.

Pollution at Camp Lejeune is the largest incident of environmental contamination at any U.S. military facility on record. It is the subject of the Oscar-shortlisted documentary Semper Fi: Always Faithful by Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon.

The bill now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass, before heading to the President to sign.