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 born and lived on or near Camp Lejeune for a good part of my childhood. I am one of six living siblings. Our mother had several miscarriages along with breast cancer, uterine cancer, and a blood disorder. I have suffered my entire life from bladder and kidney medical problems due to deformities I was born with.
I showered in, swam in, and had food cooked in that water. Most of all, I was told to always drink tons of water because of my urinary tract issues. I’ve suffered depression for years. I have many deformities in my spine which have needed five back surgeries and a neck surgery. I have had both knees replaced and have chronic headaches. I’ve had cancer (cervical- with no underlying causes such as HPV).
My older brother had bladder cancer. My younger brother suffers similar back problems and my other siblings all have medical issues which we all believe are related to the poisoned water! One brother, and myself, have filed our paperwork with the government. I’ve obtained all our dad’s military records and have all the dates that he was stationed at Camp LeJeune when we lived there. I’ve also submitted all of that.
I’ve never heard anything back other than to get an occasional newsletter. Now my daughter has had a very rare cancer that I believe might have been due to genetic changes affecting me, and subsequently, passed on to her! I want to know what rights we have? What happened with the bill that President Obama passed that was supposed to help civilian dependents!?
Editor’s Response: Regarding your question, the 2012 Lejeune law did not include civilians nor civilian dependents. It only supports service members getting assistance, as well as their dependents. If you are considered a service-member dependent, then there’s the Camp Lejeune Family Member Program for this. I suspect that’s where you’ve applied already and are awaiting word. For non-service members and their civilian dependents, the law didn’t apply or cover them at all.
Even with regards to those that are covered, that law only allowed for healthcare coverage by VA as a payer of last resort. Of course, this is not very significant or generous in terms of help from the VA. It includes no monetary assistance. The VA only steps in once all of your other insurance has paid out to cover remaining balances.
Also, CL lawsuits are held up in US Circuit Court of Appeals due to the technicality of what’s called a “statute of repose”, a NC law that limits the time to bring claims to within 10 years from the end of the exposure period. In short, it’s a mess that keeps turning into a more complicated mess rather than finding a final resolution.
As to status on any claims filed, it’s our understanding that all Lejeune claims are routed to the VA Louisville, KY office for review and ruling. I’d focus there to get a status update. Short of that, you can use your member of Congress to send a letter to push for status updates on your behalf, but the VA will likely just send you a generic notice just to satisfy the Congress member’s request, but that’s about it.
I wish I had a better answer for you than the above. Perhaps that will change soon. – GS
Note: The account/editorial is verbatim from the author without edit, with only the omission of their name to preserve anonymity.