By Dick Clapp

After years of diligent and effective advocacy by former Marines and family members, the House voted on July 31, 2012 in favor of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act (H.R. 1627). The House version was amended by the Senate and passed earlier in July and the final version now goes on to President Obama for signing into law.  The first section of the bill is named after Janey Ensminger, the nine year-old daughter of former Marine Jerry Ensminger, who was conceived and born at Camp Lejeune and lived there until she was diagnosed with leukemia, which subsequently took her life.  She was exposed to contaminated drinking water, as were hundreds of thousands of others who lived or worked on the base.

The Act, among other things, provides that the Department of Veterans Affairs will give hospital care and medical services to those veterans and families exposed during the years 1957 to 1987 for a variety of conditions that may have been caused by chemicals such as TCE, PCE, benzene and vinyl chloride in Camp Lejeune drinking water.  The House members who spoke in favor of the bill noted that the health studies establishing the link between the water and various diseases are still underway, but the process of setting up medical and hospital care should not wait until those studies are completed.  The details of this portion of the Act are still to be worked out by the VA and the affected parties.

The most important lessons of this long process have been captured in a documentary film that features several Camp Lejeune Marines and family members, including men diagnosed with breast cancer.  Semper Fi: Always Faithful documents the relentless advocacy that was necessary to raise the consciousness of the affected Marines, the general public and the Congress.  As Congressman Brad Miller (D-NC) says in the film, Jerry Ensminger’s determination and commitment was more powerful than the lobbyists who patrol the halls of Congress.  He said Jerry was a “powerful advocate, and it is a righteous power.”  Jerry managed to traverse what he has called the “swamps” of Washington and participated in the discussions that finally led to passage of a compromise version of the Act.

The next steps in this process, after President Obama signs the bill into law, will include hammering out the details of who is eligible for hospital and medical care and for what diseases or conditions.  Undoubtedly, some of these decisions will hang on the outcome of three health studies currently underway.  The first, which will report on adverse reproductive outcomes such as low birthweight births, birth defects and childhood cancer, is nearly complete and is expected to be released later this year.  It will update a previously published study that was completed before full information of the extent of contamination was provided to the researchers.  Approximately 1,200 subjects who were previously considered “unexposed” in this study will now be correctly re-classified as exposed by the current water models developed by the ATSDR.  A second study, comparing mortality of Camp Lejeune veterans with Camp Pendleton, California veterans, is also nearing completion; this will examine the pattern among 18,818 deaths that occurred in the years 1979-2008 and will also take into account exposure to contaminated drinking water on Camp Lejeune.  A third study, just getting underway, will focus on male breast cancer incidence in Marines captured in the VA central cancer registry from approximately 1995 through 2010.  This study is not expected to be completed for several more years but may provide important new insights about the environmental causes of breast cancer.  A voluntary survey of over 200,000 former Camp Lejeune residents is also being evaluated to see if reported conditions such as cancer can be confirmed.

After decades of activism and research, the House passage of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act on July 31 was a watershed event.  After President Obama signs it into law, the next phase of the process can begin and some much-needed medical care can be given to those who need and deserve it.  The ATSDR health studies, when they are completed and made available to the public, will also be important additions to the scientific understanding of how chemically-contaminated drinking water affects people’s health. Stay tuned for more on that over the coming years.

Dick Clapp has been a member of the ATSDR Camp Lejeune Community Assistance Panel since 2006.

Comments

  1. #1 Liz
    August 1, 2012

    “The House members who spoke in favor of the bill noted that the health studies establishing the link between the water and various diseases are still underway, but the process of setting up medical and hospital care should not wait until those studies are completed.”

    This is the right approach — don’t wait until all the studies are done (which can take years or even decades) before helping people get the care they need. I realize legislators can’t hand out benefits to everyone who asks without requiring some evidence, but epi studies progress far more slowly than cancers.

    I’m reminded that in countries with better health systems than ours, sick people don’t need to demonstrate links between their illnesses and others’ actions in order to get care.

  2. #2 John
    United States
    August 5, 2012

    I was born at Lejeune in 71, was in the day care in the old pesticide shop, lived at MCAS in the 80s and attended TTII, Brewster . So far, I have received an assurance that my health data, if it is used at all, will be mis-classified into the unaffected group and this is the case for each one of us that they cannot locate records for. As a consequence, my rare illness will be used in the unaffected control group rather than the exposed group and that counts against everyone in the exposed group.
    I am not one of those people who were re-classified. I should have been because I also consumed Holcomb Blvd. water during the time of the leak while I was at Brewster Jr. High School. The are no available school records from the Navy for ATSDR to use so I have been overlooked again in the study. How can this be resolved?

  3. #3 Dick
    August 7, 2012

    John,
    From your comment, it seems like you are part of the health survey, and that you lived in the New River Air Station (MCAS) in the 1980s and attended school in an area where you were exposed. This probably does mean that you would be misclassified as unexposed based on your residence, but the ATSDR will have no way of checking on this for all people in the survey. It’s unfortunate, but not unusual for studies like this to have some degree of misclassification. What happens, if it goes in both directions and is random, is that it reduces the magnitude of whatever effect is found, but it doesn’t render the results meaningless.

  4. #4 John
    Orlando
    August 8, 2012

    Thank you very much for responding to my previous question and for working with the Camp Lejeune Community Assistance Panel.
    With the small sample size that is being used and the thousands of children who were bused to school over the many decades being misclassified, if the magnitude of an already “rare” condition is diminished in any way it might in fact actually tend to render the results of the survey with regard to a rare illness meaningless (statistically insignificant). No one will know ever know unless the ATSDR relaxes their policy on self selection to correct the classification mistakes and wrong assumptions they are making. The qualifying event was consuming the water and not following the USMC instructions to register (thereby self-selecting for the survey) The Marine Corps did not provide usable school or housing records for any children. Some effort needs to be made by ATSDR to sort this issue out or I have to conclude this survey is already worthless. If I need to start lining up Statisticians to confirm this to ATSDR, I will. One reason the ATSDR birth outcomes study is being redone is because of small sample size and misclassification in the previous study! Why make the same mistake again?

  5. #5 John
    Orlando
    August 9, 2012

    I would also Like to point out that the Camp Geiger Trailer park was one of the worst places for contamination. The Trailer Park is located right next to site 41 which was a burn pit and is still too contaminated to clean up. Given the Camp Geiger Trailer Park was on MCAS for the purposes of the ATSDR survey, are we to assume that the former residents of this trailer park are un-exposed, un-affected by the water, or both?

  6. #6 Rick Capeloto
    Prescott Az.
    August 9, 2012

    I was on the Nuclear Ordnance Platoon by Montford and it was a real toxic swillhole.I had foot rot for 25 yrs.The ground was rainbowed with petroleum byproducts and I now have Critical illness Polyneuropathy from wearing those cheap Korean war boots they used to issue us.They wanted to unload all the old stuff and boy,did they.5 minutes in mud and your feet were soaked.Anyway,I have 45 things on my doctors list and I was one of the first to encounter the CLCW team head on and there are some tricks to use that really help your case.I, at one time was available to guide people thru this maze but soon found out that after way too much hand holding,monstrous phone bills and inconsistenty behavior on folks,,,I can only say this:If I went by my first denial those guys sent me I never would have been able to live like I am now..But its only come after being proactive and yellowing in and getting the thousands of files off the internet and pouring over them and sure as heck I was able to make my case and retire.Fake claimants and sandbaggers should be jailed.Bogus claims are what delays this thing.Also,they have 8 guys adjudicating these cases 1 at a time.They know or think) that most military folks are of low intellect and therefore are not capable of doing what it takes to file,,,,and as much as I hate to agree,,,I do.They are playing the odds just like the rebate people.60% are too lazy to file,,20% are too stupid,,3% cant read,,6% are dead or dying,4% are out of the country or doing too well financially,on the run,or are not effected by this, and/or dont want to draw any heat.That leaves less than 10% to deal with and historically only half of those go nuts on these bastards and let them have it in the form of credible,documented military and civilian records.So,do like I did and go get your money,,,but only if you have been made ill by this heinous,tragic,
    secretive and deeply ugly American tragedy,,and serious records otherwise forget it.You will only be killing others by stalling this whole process..Please,,no emails.Rick

  7. [...] This post is reprinted with permission of the author. The original post is on The Pump Handle. [...]

  8. #8 Rick Capeloto
    Laguna Beach
    September 6, 2012

    I have had some people pick my past statements apart and take words out of context.Let me be very clear here,,,I was very ill for 37 years before I found out about the Camp Lejeune Water poisoning.I learned of it from a newspaper man who contacted me for an interview about my highly classified Cryptographic/Nuclear Ordnance duties while serving two years aboard Camp Lejeune,N.C..since both files are still classified,I could say nothing about it,but he told me EVERYTHING!! I had no idea what had happened to us but I knew we were either sick or dying.I was soulsick for 2 years knowing that the brass had lied to us about the ATSDR studies and results were hidden/altered.I will go to my grave knowing that my fellow Marines and I were poisoned and left to die when we were all in for “no man left behind”.I feel that the CLCW team was efficient and prompt in handling my case but on the other hand I also feel that an 8 man team adjudicating 1 case at a time is ridiculous in this day and age.It truly smacks of foot dragging and stalling to ensure a higher body count.If you dont have valid paperwork they will stall you until Jesus comes back. In summary I must say that my military record is exemplary and that can only serve in my favor and can never be taken away or lessened.I do love the Marine corps but am so disssapointed the the Commandant and the asst Comandant said next to nothing and I wrote 17 letters to them and Biden and Obama and many others and got no reply..I guess Id forgotten that it was an election year and it seems that us vets are put on the back burner and our lives are worth a little less as a result.Hey,,the truth hurts,huh? I still cannot come to terms with the fact that for all these years I was alone in my sickness and now I have 1 million others as company who have suffered as much or more than me..Pleas look up” Water survivors.com”,Camp Lejeune WATER.COM. or the other sites that will lend some info to this horrible American tragedy….

  9. #9 Mike Treppard
    Redding,ca
    October 25, 2012

    Hello Mr. Capeloto
    My name is Mike Treppard, and I was with the Nuclear Ordnance Platoon at Camp LeJeune, NC. I have tried to find anyone that was stationed there, but I have never found anyone that was there when I was (1969-1971). The NOP was at a place called SH-8. Can you give me any info as to what Hazmat was there (in addition to the obvious) ? I was in the Security detail – NOP Guard. mtreppard@yahoo.com

  10. #10 Billy clift
    thomaston, Georgia
    December 7, 2012

    I worked on the base at Camp Lejeune in 62-63. We lived
    at the Camp Geiger trailer park at that time. Our family has
    suffered so many health issues. I have agent Orange compensation, but my family need their health issues taken care of. They have a lot of joint and muscle pain and are in pain a lot of the time. I would like an update on what can be done. I am not in good health and time is running out for a lot of us. Please help my family.

  11. #11 Carla Hammonds
    United States
    March 18, 2013

    I was born at Camp Lejuene in 1978 & lived in military housing. I was the last baby born to my parents & altogether my parents lost six babies out of twelve. My entire life I have suffered a host of illnesses where with one ~ scleroderma ~ I have had 21 surgeries & 2 amputations to try & correct the problem but, to date the problems still persist! Currently, I am recovering from the most recent surgery. I’m also suffering from female infertility problems as well as a host of others.
    My problem with this whole issue is that I urgently need medical care as I know many others as well need & although a law has been passed to provide health care yet we still can not get the medical care we need & deserve to have ~ now! Why do we have to wait years & or decades long to get the medical care we all need right now? Waiting for the results of some studies is not any of us any justice because regardless of what is found we are the ones who will have to continue to suffer with these illnesses & no medical care! When will Uncle Sam start taking care of us here who were made ill because of Uncle Sams contaminated water?
    I will write a host of two letters a week, one to President Obama & the other letterto congress until they provide us all with what we need ~ health care ~ they also needto find who all are responsible for contaminating the water & hold them all responsible!

  12. #12 James Dagostino
    Pennsylvania
    April 29, 2013

    I first heard about the bad water 10 or more years ago. I called camp Lejeune to find out about it. I was told they would get back to me. They never did return any of my calls even after repeated requests trying to get information on the subject. I wonder how many other people they ignored.

  13. #13 naomi
    652 sw byron st port st lucie fl 34983
    June 7, 2013

    I was stationed at women marine barracks and also lived on base after marriage in 1966 67. I have broncialestis and no one knows where it came from I had shortness of breath and wasn’t found out until 3 years ago also pulmonary hypertension can that happen this long ago

  14. #14 Marcellus Goree Sr.
    Washington, D.C.
    October 8, 2013

    The lawyers in this country who refuse to handle the cases of veterans seeking justice in this matter are a disgrace to the human race. We put ourselves in harms way to protect these COWARDS and this is how they show their appreciation.

  15. #15 Jennifer Hebert
    October 16, 2013

    I was born on Camp Lejeune 1983, I too have infertility and other issues. My Mother was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer, & issues with her kidneys. But, we are unsure if our issues are directly related to theissues at camp Lejeune. Is there someway to be tested to verify this is where our troubles began? I really wouldn’t want to take time away from verified cases, but rally don’t know where to start. Any assistance would he greatly appreciated!

  16. #16 michael
    ky
    December 25, 2013

    I have had throat Cancer left side of my neck removed lost all my feeling in my face and no taste. Two years I got denied. I’m under appeal and will have to wait two more years. But I’m fighting this all the way to the top. Semper Fi are you with me. Write emails everyday to those do nothing Congress and Senators. I send them letters every other day and will till they settle my case I served 3 years during the Nam war. They have no right to pick and choose who to settle. Two of my three years was at Lejeune. Fight !!!!!

  17. #17 Nancy
    Camp Pendleton
    February 4, 2014

    I was a Navy Corpsman from 1974-1978 at Camp Pendleton. I have scleroderma and some other autoimmune diseases and my daughter who was in utero was born blind. Any other Camp Pendleton victims out there? Thanks.

  18. #18 David
    United States
    February 21, 2014

    I want to know if MCAS New River Air Station had issues with water from 1983-1986. I see some information that they did, but everything I read focuses only on camp Lejeune. I want to say that the Marines and family members who were affected by this, I hope you get all that you deserve with medical care. The reason I ask about MCAS is that I have a very strange neurological problem with muscles that Doctors can’t explain….so, if anyone out there could let me know if MCAS had issues like Camp Lejeune, I would appreciate it.

  19. #19 rick capeloto
    parnell az
    March 24, 2014

    Clcw team..after being poisoned on CL I was sick every day for 35 yrs…then all this water fiasco was exposed and as a result 43 disorders on my doctors list are chronic. Among these are critical illness polyneuropathy..banging headaches/eyeaches..digestive disorders..and no desire to hang around other people. The tip of the toxic iceberg. I was a perfect Marine and got in no trouble..honorable discharge and much more. They rated me and pay me at the 100% rate. There’s. only one problem..the meds have benzene derivatives as. preservatives (

  20. #20 rick capeloto
    March 24, 2014

    ( methylpolyparaben..sodium benzoate and many more) and Benzene is what got us the most. Holistic treatment is the only thing I can turn to and I spend all and more of the money to pay for it. I guess what I’m saying is that they gave no connection to the water and kinda threw me a bone so I’m going back at them with proof and a request for better resolution..to MY satisfaction..not theirs. It took years to get anything from them so since its a veteran friendly time get your p0roof to them..ambulance chasers and folks with no proof will find themselves screwed..

  21. #21 CW4 Rod Wilce
    Cary, NC
    April 11, 2014

    Having just learned of the Lejeune compensation and treatment program( public law 112-154) I would like to know if I am included as I was stationed at both Camp Gieger and MCAS New River from 1966-1967

  22. #22 Dawn
    Chicago, IL
    April 25, 2014

    Just curious as to how most people found out there was even a problem at Camp Lejeune??? My dad, mom and older sister were stationed there during the late 1950′s and my father now is battling Parkinsons which we know was caused by the water issue. What if anything is the VA/government doing about medical bills or having these people seen by a doctor within the VA who is more aware of the diseases that have been caused from drinking the water and/or can answer questions that are in need of answers????