How Much Longer Must I Wait?

The following is a personal story submitted to Civilian Exposure and published as part of our new series: “Contamination Chronicles: Personal Stories of Exposure”. If you would like to submit your story, you may fill out our form here or send directly via email to [email protected]


I am a service-connected US Navy Vietnam-era veteran and former Navy corpsman stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC in 1968.

I was diagnosed with primary liver cancer in 2012 and a recurrence of liver cancer in 2015. The cancer was found early enough in that I can still write this note.

My wife and I spent 9 months in 2015 dealing with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. In 2016, I’ve enjoyed good health and I am feeling well as of this date. I am under surveillance by the local VAMC oncologist. I had a negative CT scan this past July.

The VA has denied my claim for liver cancer twice. I appealed the first denial in 2014 and I am appealing the latest VBA denial from June 2015. The delays are inappropriate; I didn’t delay when I was called up for active duty in 1967. The VA reasons that the delays are due to the overwhelming caseloads awaiting adjudication.

So what?  Hire more staff! What are a few more ten thousand federal employees in an already bloated department?

But I digress.

In December 2015, the VA Secretary released a statement whereby the VA acknowledges presumptive service connection of liver cancer (among 12 other disease states) with contaminated water in Camp Lejeune, NC.

The cancer forced me to retire in 2012 due to the horrible side effects of chemo and radiation. I had to halt a 40-year career as a physician assistant. I made an excellent hourly rate that exceeded six figures a year. Now I must settle for a fixed SSA income and the disability award from the VA.

Now THAT really aggravates me in that I must live on hamburger rather than a nice, tasty ribeye!

The VBA claims that appeals are worked on as a first come, first served basis. I’m 68 years old.

How much longer must I wait?


Note from the Editor: The author currently resides in Arizona. The account/editorial is verbatim from the author without edit, with only the omission of their name to preserve anonymity.

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Civilian Exposure

Civilian Exposure is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization/public charity working to Build Awareness, Accountability and Assistance for Civilians Exposed to Camp Lejeune Water Contamination and all citizens exposed to any toxic contamination aboard all U.S. military installations. The effort continues to inform civilian employees and others affected by contamination to receive both the guidance and the justice they deserve.

About the Founder
A 20-year veteran of media, marketing, non-profits and entrepreneurship, Gavin P. Smith leads Civilian Exposure, a non-profit assisting civilians and veterans exposed to U.S. military contamination; the Keta Foundation, a collaborative foundation dedicated to mitigating modern slavery through economic improvement projects in Africa; and Gavin Consulting, a network of virtual experts serving global clients; He is also a former member of the CDC/ATSDR Camp Lejeune Community Assistance Panel. Mr. Smith holds a Master of Global Management with distinction (Beta Gamma Sigma) from Thunderbird School of Global Management, an MBA from The College of William & Mary Mason School of Business and a BA in History from Wake Forest University.

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