Attention veterans and military family members who served or lived at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. If you suffer from certain medical conditions, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Over a five-year period beginning in March, the VA will begin providing about $2.2 billion to veterans and their families who were exposed to contaminated drinking water at the Marine base. The VA announced on Jan. 13 that there is scientific and medical evidence that shows an association to water contaminates on Lejeune and certain diseases.
The new regulations cover veterans that were stationed there for at least 30 days cumulative between August 1953 through December 1987. To qualify for the cash payouts, veterans must have been stationed there for at least 30 days cumulative during that period.
The VA estimates that up to 900,000 military members may have been exposed to the contaminated water. The VA says that as of Friday, Jan. 13, it had already received approximately 1,400 disability claims related to Lejeune and its toxic water.
Veterans, Reservists and Guardsmen who served at the Marine bases during that period, and who have been diagnosed with one or more of the following presumptive conditions, may qualify for VA disability benefits:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
The VA presumes that specific medical disabilities diagnosed in military veterans were caused by military service and disability benefits can be awarded without a medical opinion.
Visit Allsup.com or email AVDS@allsupinc.com to learn how Allsup can help if you or someone you know has been denied VA disability compensation benefits, or if you believe you should have received a higher disability rating.
By Mary Beth of Allsup
In September, Fred Harres was chosen to participate in a once in a lifetime event—a visit to our nation’s capitol and a tour of its many monuments, war memorials and tributes to military veterans. The long day trip was courtesy of the Illinois Land of Lincoln Honor Flight for veterans.
Mr. Harres took advantage of the opportunity and it’s an experience he won’t soon forget.
I know this, because Fred Harres, 83, is my father.
Dad enlisted in the Army in 1953. The Korean War was winding down at the time and he served in Germany for three years as a water treatment specialist. He wasn’t involved in combat, but he did have a few exciting moments.
Like the time when his unit was on maneuvers and his tent burst into flames in the middle of the night. He and his buddies managed to get out of the tent and start dousing the flames, but then Dad realized that one man was stuck in his sleeping bag and couldn’t get out. Dad was able to go back inside the tent and carry his friend to safety moments before the fiery tent collapsed.
The Honor Flight was made up of 80 World War II, Korea and Vietnam war veterans that traveled to Washington, D.C., from Springfield, Illinois, on a charter flight. My sisters and I drove Dad to the Springfield airport very early in the morning and we were there when it returned later that night. Some of the veterans used walkers, some were in wheelchairs and others, like Dad, were able to get around without help.
I don’t think anyone expected the wild scene that erupted in the terminal as the veterans left the airplane. There was an organized parade, complete with a band and a color guard and dignitaries that welcomed the former troops back home. There were many hundreds of people lined up at the airport; so many people that it took eight volunteers to control the traffic.
It was very emotional, especially for the Vietnam veterans, because they sure didn’t have receptions like this when they came home from their war. Dad was one of the last men off the plane, but when he did, he had a huge smile on his face.
And he still smiles today when he remembers the long overdue homecoming. And so do I.
I know this little story is a little late for Veterans Day, but I don’t think we need a special day to remember and honor our veterans.
Allsup has its own way to honor these heroes. Learn more about our Veterans Disability Appeals Service.
By Tai of Allsup
Do you love a veteran? Tell them. I called my dad after hearing Meghan Voorhees, LCSW, from the suicide prevention team at the VA St. Louis Health Care System, speak at a gathering of social workers and mental health advocates last month.
The VA reports about 20 veterans die by suicide each day. One of many things I took away from Ms. Voorhees’ talk is that I will not use the term “committed suicide” anymore. People “commit” crimes. Visit Suicide.org for more on the topic.
I learned there are three main factors present in veteran suicides:
- Loss of a feeling of belonging
- Feeling of being a burden
- Capability of self harm
Service men and women experience a strong sense of belonging when they are in a military unit. They spend time with people they know “have their back” and who share a common mission.
“When they leave active duty, it is no longer a part of their day to day lives,” Voorhees said.
Leaving the service with a chronic illness or disability, and being unable to find work, may cause veterans to feel like they are burdens to their friends, families and society.
In addition, veterans have a higher capability of self-harm than the general population. They have been trained to use firearms, are comfortable around guns and have access to them.
In light of this, the group wanted to know the best way to provide pre-emptive education. The consensus? Raise awareness. Talk about it. Offer help.
I’ve been privileged to take part in efforts to do that in the Metro East St. Louis area.
This is the third year Allsup is sponsoring the No Family Left Behind Conference and Connection Fair. The event helps veterans and military families connect with resources to address mental health and practical needs, and improve their quality of life.
This event provides a free, safe and supportive forum to discuss issues such as suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and living with a disability—topics not often discussed openly or even privately, due to stigma, misunderstanding and ignorance.
In addition to veteran suicides, other numbers demand our attention:
- 5.25 – average number of service-connected disabilities of VA disability recipients in 2015
- 379,350 pending VA disability claims
- 4 million veterans with a mental health service-related disability, including PTSD, major depressive disorder and anxiety who are receiving VA disability benefits
- 5 million military caregivers
As Veterans Day approaches, seek out and support local activities.
Use social media to observe the day and promote resources such as the Veterans Crisis Line at (800) 273-8255, VA Caregiver Support Line at (855) 260-3274, and the Allsup Veterans Disability Appeal Service® at Veterans.Allsup.com.
Call a veteran and tell them you appreciate them. I’ll be calling 20.