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Lawmakers urge president to speed up VA health care services for Lejeune vets

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has sent a letter to President Obama urging expedited health care for Camp Lejeune vets exposed to contaminated water during a 30-year period.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has sent a letter to President Obama urging expedited health care for Camp Lejeune vets exposed to contaminated water during a 30-year period.

According to the April 20 letter, signed by the chairmen and ranking members of the Veterans' Affairs Committees in both the House and Senate, efforts to deliver needed health care to those veterans and their family members “affected by possibly the worst example of water contamination in our nation’s history” have been hindered by delays in identifying funds that can be used to provide that care, and by a failure to acknowledge a direct link between the exposure and reported illnesses.

Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Reps. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and Bob Filner (D-Calif.) were prompted to appeal to the president after VA Secretary Eric Shinseki indicated in correspondence that any action taken to provide care to the estimated one million vets and their family members exposed to the contaminated water between 1957 and 1987 would be “premature.”

While it has been determined that during the 30-year period a portion of the water supply at the North Carolina camp was contaminated with volatile organic compounds, scientific studies conducted thus far do not provide sufficient evidence to suggest that the exposure was the cause of any adverse health affects, Shinseki wrote.

He said the agency is awaiting the results of an Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) study looking into reported adverse health effects and scientific evidence associated with Camp Lejeune due to be released over the next two years. “ATSDR’s studies are expected to provide the necessary scientific information to evaluate possible service connection and policy considerations,” Shinseki said in his letter.

However, the lawmakers in their letter to the president expressed their disagreement with Shinseki, contending that there is enough scientific evidence “giving the benefit of the doubt to those who need help now.” They also contend that funds exist in VA's budget that can be reallocated to begin providing the care. In the meantime, the lawmakers said they will continue to push efforts to advance legislation to address the issue.

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