Congress Approves Health Care for Camp Lejeune Vets, Families

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For Immediate Release: 
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. House of Representatives today passed a bipartisan bill that provides health benefits to veterans and their families exposed to contaminated drinking water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act (H.R. 1627) provides hospital care and medical services through the Department of Veterans Affairs to those made ill by their exposures to a host of toxic chemicals found in the base’s drinking water, including carcinogens benzene, vinyl chloride and trichloroethylene.

“Our hope is that with this help these families can finally start to heal from this tragedy,” said Alex Rindler, policy associate at the Environmental Working Group. “Today, we celebrate an America that came together to take care of its own, but we are also reminded of those still in need of treatment.”

The bill passed in large part because of the tireless advocacy of retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger, whose daughter Janey passed away from leukemia at age nine, and Mike Partain, son and grandson of Marine Corps officers who was born at the base in 1968 and developed male breast cancer at age 39. Their search for answers helped uncover the pollution and inspired an Oscar-shortlisted documentary, Semper Fi: Always Faithful, directed by Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon.

Spanning a period of 30 years, Camp Lejeune’s water contamination is considered one of the worst cases in history. Almost 80 men who lived or were born on the base have been diagnosed with male breast cancer, a rare disease. The Environmental Working Group has joined the men in urging Congress and the Obama Administration to heed the concerns of these veterans, their children and thousands of affected military families.

Reps. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.), and Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) championed the cause of Camp Lejeune’s veterans and families for years. With the leadership of Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairwoman, the legislation has moved to the President’s desk for his signature.