U.S. Senate Finally Steps In
For months there has been a hold-up in the passage of an omnibus veterans benefits bill in Congress, H.R. 1627, but this time to the good. The bill had started life providing only “…for certain requirements for the placement of monuments in Arlington National Cemetery …”, evolved into The Honoring Americans Act of 2011 from the House and finally emerged, mutated, from the Senate as the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012. What idiot said bill ‘riders’ are bad?
Senator Richard Burr (NC), the ranking member in the Senate‘s Veterans Affairs Committee, insisted that before approval it include programs to provide health care for people who are suffering from illnesses due to drinking the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune N.C. Only then would he release it for a vote. It is believed that up to 750,000 people who lived and/or worked at Camp Lejeune between January 1, 1957 through December 31, 1987 were exposed to contaminated water containing carcinogens. However, DoD studies continue after all these years; and the VA has not ruled on any presumptive conditions. Hence the senator’s insistence.
Finally an agreement was reached and the House and Senate VA Committees conference committee passed the bill. However, not before one last hold was placed on the bill. Senator Jim DeMint (SC) wanted an additional provision included stating that the VA would be allowed to deny health care if “conclusive evidence” exists showing that the individual’s disability or disease had a different cause than exposure to the contaminated drinking water at Lejeune. The provision is very similar to provisions in numerous other programs covering presumptive illnesses including Agent Orange and Gulf War illnesses.
Chairman of the Senate VA Committee Patty Murray (WA) agreed to the addition and the bill passed the Senate on the same day, 18 July, by unanimous vote. It will now go back to the House for an additional vote before it can be sent to President Obama for his signature. By the way, the bill now includes more than 50 provisions to better serve veterans — not only those affected by the Lejuene toxic poisoning mess. To find out more on those provisions, click here.
Separately, on 19 July, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (VT) released more than 8,500 Department of Defense documents relating to the water contamination that continued at the base for decades. These thousands of newly released documents about water contamination at Camp Lejeune add to the evidence that the military long knew about tainted tap water blamed for deaths and illnesses of Marines and their families, and that officials covered up the information for years, Rep. (NC) Brad Miller said. “For the last 30 years, instead of saying there could be health effects and or even we don’t know what the health effects are, they’ve minimized it,” he added.
Water supplied to many of Camp Lejeune’s areas was contaminated by dry cleaning solvents and other chemicals . Health officials believe as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to tainted water.
Certainly, it’s about time to bring resolution to this matter, if our congressmen are on the lookout for the welfare of our people. The Lejeune matter has had more than sufficient years for study. Now is the time for action.
Sources: NAUS Weekly Update 20 July 2012, AP article 21 Juyl 2012
UPDATE #1: The bill passed the House by voice vote on 31 July. It is on it’s way to the President for signing into law.
Source: Marine Corps Times, 31 July 2012
UPDATE #2: President signs the bill into law on 6 August 2012
Source: UPI.com, 6 August 2012
30 July 2012 (Updated 1 August 2012)