Secretary McDonald recently revealed more details regarding VA’s plan to expand disability compensation eligibility to veterans who were exposed to contaminated water while stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987, including Reserve and National Guard personnel who would not normally be eligible for VA disability compensation benefits.
The Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) found that drinking water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with chemicals such as perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene, vinyl chloride, and benzene from leaking storage tanks. ATSDR also determined prolonged exposure to those chemicals increases the risk of certain health conditions.
Based on VA’s review of current medical science, the Secretary intends to create a presumption of service connection for the following conditions:
The presumption will even apply to National Guard and Reserve members who might not normally fall within VA’s statutory definition of a “veteran.”
Although it will likely take at least a year for VA to release and finalize regulations, veterans who believe they will qualify for presumptive service connection should submit an application for service connection as soon as possible to ensure the earliest effective date (and most amount of backpay) as possible. This is because VA will put the claim on hold until it issues the final regulations and can grant service connection.