Vets may be affected by past water contamination

Friday, June 22, 2018 8:56 PM

From the 1950s through the 1980s, people serving or living at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, were potentially exposed to drinking water contaminated with industrial solvents, benzene and other chemicals. This chemical exposure may have led to adverse health conditions.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has published regulations to establish presumptions for service connection for eight diseases associated with exposure to contaminants in the water supply at Camp Lejeune. The presumption of service connection applies to active duty, reserve and National Guard members who served at Camp Lejeune for more than 30 cumulative days and are diagnosed with any of the eight conditions identified. Certain surviving spouses may qualify for VA Survivors Benefits if their loved one served at Camp Lejeune and died because of any of the qualifying heath conditions.

You may be eligible for VA Health Benefits if you served on active duty or lived on Camp Lejeune for 30 cumulative days or more between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987.Veterans who are determined to be eligible will be able to receive VA health care. In addition, care for qualifying health conditions is provided at no cost to the veteran (including copayments). Eligible family members receive reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical expenses incurred from the treatment of qualifying health conditions after all other health insurance is applied.

The qualifying health conditions are: adult leukemia, aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’ lyphoma and Parkinson’s disease.

Veterans should enroll in VA health care. Inform VA you served on active duty at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days during the covered time period. If you are already enrolled, contact your local VA health care facility at to sign up for the Camp Lejeune Program and receive VA care. If you are not yet enrolled, apply online at or call toll-free (877) 222-8387.

Family members need to show your relationship to a veteran, such as a marriage license or birth certificate. VA will assist you with verifying residency on Camp Lejeune during the covered timeframe. You will need to gather qualifying expense receipts. By law, VA may only compensate for eligible out- of-pocket expenses after family members have received payment from all other health plans. Apply for reimbursement online at or call toll-free (866) 372-1144.

Richard Schleeter is the veterans service officer for the La Plata County Veterans Service Office. He can be reached at 759-0117 or

For more information

The La Plata County Veterans Service Office provides information and assis­tance to veterans and their families. For more information, visit the county website at and type “veterans services” in the search window. The Veterans Service Office and the Durango VA Clinic are located at 1970 East Third Ave. The office phone number is 759-0117. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays except holidays. Appointments are encouraged. To schedule an appoint­ment, call 382-6150. For clinic appointments, call 247-2214.
Help for vetsThe Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans, family and friends. Call (800) 273-8255 and press 1. You also can text professional responders at 838255 or chat online at
Health care van serviceDisabled American Veterans is running a VA health-care van from Durango to Albuquerque on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from Farmington to Albuquerque on Mondays and Wednesdays. If you want to use the DAV transportation network, contact DAV coordinators at:
Durango area – 442-0149Cortez area – (970) 676-1116Farmington/Aztec – (505) 793-1782