Service members who serve overseas are often exposed to many dangers. Of course, there is always the risk of combat, but there are other non-combat conditions that could make a service member ill or cause an injury. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides Marines who served at Camp Lejeune and were exposed to chemically contaminated water while there with benefits if the Marines thus became sick due to the water. However, the VA only recognizes eight diseases the water could have caused, including Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, aplastic anemia, Parkinson’s disease, adult leukemia, multiple myeloma and cancer of the bladder, kidney and liver.
Per rules that the VA recently adopted, the agency will provide Marines and Reserve and National Guard members who spent at least 30 days at Camp Lejeune anywhere from 1953 to 1987 who have one of those eight diseases. Also, when a veteran becomes disabled, he or she may automatically be provided with disability benefits, if he or she qualifies for such benefits.
There is a problem with the new rules, however. The new rules apply to service members, but do not apply to family members that may have lived at Camp Lejeune with the service member during those years. This leaves Marines who served at Camp Lejeune with their families concerned about what the future will bring for their loved ones.
While it remains to be seen if the VA will do anything for the families of Marines who served at Camp Lejeune and were exposed to the contaminated water, any service member who was made ill or injured during the course of their service to this country can pursue disability benefits with the VA or the Social Security Administration. However, one may want to seek the help of an attorney when pursuing veterans’ benefits or Social Security disability benefits. An attorney can assist with the application itself and can represent the individual during the appeals process if necessary.
Source: wfla.com, “Sick Marines receive expanded benefits, but families get nothing,” Steve Andrews, Jan. 13, 2017