A petition on Change.org has finally broken the decades-long political barrier to medical care for thousands of disabled veterans and their families who were affected by poisoned water during their service at the Camp Lejeune military base.
Sergeant Jerry Ensminger is the crusader for justice for the families stationed at Camp Lejeune during the 30 years that cancer-causing chemicals flowed freely through the base’s water supply. He used the social change website to gain support for his decades-long efforts. His campaign, “Health Care Now for Military Families Poisoned at Camp Lejeune,” details what happened there, including his personal story of losing daughter Janey to leukemia at age nine, his only child born and raised at Camp Lejeune.
In his campaign, he stated, “Those of us who drank the water have suffered from cancers, leukemias, miscarriages and birth defects from the cancer-causing chemicals in the water. Last month, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said providing healthcare to Camp Lejeuene veterans is “premature,” and there are two bills in Congress that would provide health care for the families and veterans who desperately need it. But these measures are being held up by politics…It’s time for the U.S. government to provide the people who are still suffering the effects of the toxic water at Camp Lejeune with health care. We volunteered to serve and protect our nation…we never volunteered to be poisoned by our own leaders!”
Campaign Pushes Action in the Senate
His campaign gained over 135,000 signatures within one month, and a momentous response from the U.S. Senate which passed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 to provide medical care to over 200,000 people. The next step is a vote by the House of Representatives.
“It has taken fifteen years, countless hours of research and advocacy, an award-winning documentary, [Semper Fi: Always Faithful] and a grassroots campaign for us to get to this point, but I have hope that our victory will make it easier for others,” said Ensminger.
Camp Lejeune Documents Made Public
On July 19, the same day the Senate passed the bill, the Department of Defense released water contamination records previously unavailable to the public.
Ensminger’s reaction? “Why wasn’t this stuff released before? The Marine Corps has been hiding their documents, hiding important information for far too long. . .”
U.S Senator Kay Hagan, D-N.C., urged the release. He said, “This is a step in the right direction towards providing the public with transparency on the tragic events that occurred for several decades at Camp Lejeune. The Marines and family members affected by this terrible incident deserve answers. I will continue to press the Navy and Marine Corps until Congress and the American people have access to the entire collection.”
As of May 2012, the VA has processed 1,052 Camp Lejeune disability claims. Of those, 794 claims have been denied benefits, and 1,266 are pending decisions. The VA is reviewing each claim on a case-by-case basis.
Note: All representation coordinated by Alpha is provided by our employees, the Advocates, who are accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). No private organization that trains and employs accredited agents has been legally recognized by the VA for the purposes of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims. This work must be done by the Advocates themselves and not organizations.