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 share-@-civilianexposure.org.
I was stationed at Camp Lejeune from 1971-1975. In 1979, I was diagnosed with sarcoma cancer (soft tissue tumor) in my right leg resulting in losing my leg above the knee. After being denied by VA, I started conducting research on what might cause the type of cancer that I developed. I found research from 8 different cancer centers, all nationally known, that had conducted research on the cancer that I had.
In all of their research, it was found that the chemical vinyl chloride was more likely than not to be a contributing factor in the cause of soft tissue cancers (which is what I had). Now let me remind you that the chemical vinyl chloride has been identified by the government as being one of the three (3) chemicals found in the Camp Lejeune water.
With the help of my VA rep, the additional evidence was sent to the VA board. However, I was denied again. The board stated there is no evidence to show that my cancer was tied to the water.
Someone explain that outcome to me, when you have eight (8) different cancer research centers stating vinyl chloride causes soft tissue tumors? The government states vinyl chloride was one of the chemicals in the water at Camp Lejeune. But yet, there is no evidence to show my cancer was tied to the contaminated water.
I just don’t understand.
Note from the Editor: The author currently resides in Georgia. The account/editorial is verbatim from the author without edit, with only the omission of their name to preserve anonymity.
In response to this submission, a few thoughts:
1) Vinyl chloride is one of the top chemicals found in Lejeune water, but there are certainly more than 3. See this reference for the full list of Lejeune contaminants.
2) VA denials over service connection for illnesses have been widely reported, and require the right type of documentation including a nexus letter from a physician supporting the connection that it is “more likely than not”. Even still, in the past the VA would deny based on opinions from their own “subject matter experts” that would often overrule those findings.
3) It is imperative that no matter the initial outcome, anyone filing a claim needs to fight and appeal. In most cases, it may take multiple steps before finally getting a just outcome. It is sad that this is the reality, but keep fighting.