521 Dirksen Senate Office Building
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Hagan Urges VA to Expedite Claims for Lejeune Veterans
Friday, February 4, 2011
Hagan speaks with area veterans during "Conversations with Kay" in Raleigh.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Kay R. Hagan is urging Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki to expedite and simplify the claims process for veterans affected by contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. In a letter sent yesterday to Secretary Shinseki, Hagan said that the goal is a presumptive policy on water contamination cases, similar to the VA's policy for veterans affected by Agent Orange.
Hagan also told the VA it should no longer use the flawed 2009 National Research Council (NRC) report. That report has been a major stumbling block for veterans attempting to receive VA benefits associated with their exposures at Camp Lejeune. Following a meeting with Hagan, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) came out against the report. The letter stresses the importance of an effective ATSDR-VA relationship and encourages the VA to coordinate with ATSDR prior to sending a Training Letter to its Regional Offices and Centers that might handle incoming Lejeune water contamination claims.
"Since coming to the Senate, it has been a priority of mine to help provide answers to the families who were affected by water contamination at Camp Lejeune," said Hagan. "It is critical that the VA process claims for our veterans more effectively, efficiently, and consistently. In addition, the VA must cast aside the extremely flawed 2009 NRC report. Our servicemen and women and their families have sacrificed so much for our country, and we owe it to them to ease their burden in dealing with VA claims."
In October of 2010, Hagan met with Dr. ChristopherPortier, head of the ATSDR, which is the agency in charge of investigating the link between water contamination at Camp Lejeune and the health problems of Marines and their families. Hagan told Portier that the NRC report has been a major problem for veterans. After their meeting, the ATSDR sent the Department of the Navy a letter clarifying that the agency had found significant shortcomings with this report. That letter references Portier's meeting with Hagan and can be read here.
Yesterday, Hagan cosponsored the Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act that would open health access to VA health care for veterans and their family members who have developed health problems after being exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.