Administration should shift Veterans Affairs funds to care for Marines, families harmed at Camp Lejeune

While Americans disagree on foreign policy, everyone can agree that our warriors and their families should be given the best medical treatment for ailments from their time of service. That certainly is the case for more than 750,000 people who might have been contaminated by harmful chemicals in the tap water at Marine Corps Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The contamination struck from 1957 to 1987.

The Marines have set up a website to register those who might be contaminated. The site says, “The Marine Corps encourages all those who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune before 1987 to register to receive notifications regarding Camp Lejeune Historic Drinking Water. The Department of the Navy is funding independent research initiatives.” There’s also a Facebook page.

The Marine website reported on a 1998 “birth outcome” study by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The study “concluded that drinking water contaminated with [volatile organic compounds] may be associated with decreased average birth weight-for-gestational-age births in infants born to mothers over the age of 35 or in women who had a history of adverse pregnancy outcomes.”

Other ailments have included non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, kidney cancer, breast cancer and leukemia. So this is not a scam to rip off the taxpayers, but something real.

Congress has been pushing the Veterans Affairs to spend $3.9 billion on helping the brave veterans and their families. But as our story on page 3 of this edition points out, “[I]n a rare case of over allocation, VA officials found that cash in surplus — then they went ahead and unilaterally spent it on other things.”

House Veterans Affairs Committee members were not informed of the surplus money until earlier this year. But by then, “the money had been reinvested into other VA projects, including activating new facilities, expanding mental health, and eliminating veteran homelessness, according to VA officials.”

In February, Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) sent a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to get the funding allocated. The Army Times reported that Shinseki “said in an April 9 response to Miller that it was premature to provide health care” to the veterans.

As Human Events also discovered, this isn’t the only VA accounting problem under the Obama administration. It reported, “Last Monday, an Inspector General’s report found that the department significantly understated wait times for its mental healthcare patients and overstated the percentage of first-time patients who got timely appointments for evaluation.”

In 2011, the Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act was introduced into the U.S. Senate as S. 277, by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). It would have provided care for the contaminated veterans and their families. But it did not pass either house of Congress.

We always are loath to spend more of the taxpayers’ money. But certainly, those who fought for our country’s freedoms should be cared for, along with their families, for health problems caused during their terms of service and through no fault of their own. The Obama administration is campaigning for re-election on a platform that includes supposedly helping veterans. President Obama himself pledged, “We also owe our veterans the care they were promised and the benefits that they have earned.”

Yet, so far the administration has given the Camp Lejeune veterans little more than rhetoric and Chicagoland-style accounting gimmicks at the VA. The administration should shift the available funds to taking care of the veterans. If it doesn’t, Congress should pass the Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act, or something similar, and allocate adequate funds. This is no time to play games with heroes.


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