Mar 29 2017
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Richard Burr (R-NC), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) today introduced the Janey Ensminger Act, legislation that would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide medical care for all diseases that can be scientifically linked to exposure to toxic chemicals at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
“Veterans and their families who were poisoned at Camp Lejeune deserve prompt medical care,” said Rubio. “For far too long, those stationed at Camp Lejeune and suffering from various cancers and diseases have been uncertain about their coverage. This is completely unacceptable. I am proud to stand on the side of veterans and support legislation that ensures those affected at Camp Lejeune get the care they need.”
“The Veterans Administration continues to deny clear scientific links between debilitating diseases and exposure to certain toxic chemicals in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune,” said Burr. “The Janey Ensminger Act requires the VA to do the right thing and give veterans the medical care they need. The military negligently poisoned these service members and they shouldn’t have to fight the VA every time that government researchers find a link between a disease and the toxins that were in their drinking water.”
“While progress has been made to ensure that veterans and their families who were poisoned at Camp Lejeune receive the benefits they have long deserved, some victims are still not receiving the care to which they are entitled because the VA has refused to accept the most up to date scientific data and research available,” said Tillis. “The Janey Ensminger Act of 2017 prioritizes science over politics and trusts the federal government’s scientific experts outside of the VA with decisions about medical coverage to ensure that every veteran who might have been affected at Camp Lejeune gets they care they need and deserve.”
“We have a responsibility to care for those who have served our country and their families,” said Nelson. “The VA should be giving any veteran who was stationed at Camp Lejeune and now battling one of these scientifically-linked illnesses the benefit of the doubt.”
The legislation also requires the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a federal agency within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to review all relevant scientific literature every three years to determine if sufficient or modest causal links have been found between toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune and additional diseases and conditions. This will ensure that veterans and their families will not have to wait to get medical care as researchers learn more about the long-term health consequences of the toxins found in the water at Camp Lejeune. The legislation is named for Janey Ensminger, the daughter of Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger, who was born on base at Camp Lejeune and died as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals.
In August of 2012, President Obama signed the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act into law. This law requires the VA to provide health care to veterans and their family members who have certain diseases and conditions as a result of exposure to well-water contaminated by human carcinogens at Camp Lejeune. However, the VA has resisted providing health care benefits to many of these veterans and their family members because it has not recognized the scientific links between the exposure to toxins and certain diseases that have been found by government researchers at the ATSDR.
Earlier this month, the VA began granting compensation to veterans suffering from illnesses caused by contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Veterans who served at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more from 1953 to 1987 and are suffering from a service connected illness are now eligible to receive disability compensation.