WASHINGTON – Today, Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced S. 2888, The Janey Ensminger Act of 2016, which requires the VA to provide medical care for all diseases that can be scientifically linked to exposure to toxic chemicals at Camp Lejeune.
The legislation also requires that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a federal agency within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, review all relevant scientific literature every three years to determine if sufficient or modest causal links have been found between toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune and additional diseases and conditions. This will ensure that veterans and their families will not have to wait to get medical care as researchers learn more about the long-term health consequences of the toxins found in the water at Camp Lejeune. The legislation is named for Janey Ensminger, the daughter of Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger, who was born on base at Camp Lejeune and died as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals.
“The military negligently poisoned these service members and their families,” said Sen. Burr. “The VA has consistently denied the clear scientific links between exposure to toxins at Camp Lejeune and diseases like Parkinson’s, cardiac malformations and rectal cancer. The Janey Ensminger Act puts a stop to VA denials and will ensure that these men and women who served our nation get the care they need. These veterans should not have to fight the VA every time that government researchers find a link between a disease and the toxins that were in their drinking water.”
“As I’ve said before, I believe the VA should be giving our veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune the benefit of the doubt – especially if ATSDR finds a link between their illness and the toxins they were exposed to while stationed there,” said Sen. Nelson.
“The Janey Ensminger Act ensures that veterans and their families who were poisoned at Camp Lejeune won’t have to wait to receive care merely because the VA isn’t using the most up to date scientific data and research available,” said Sen. Tillis. “This legislation prioritizes science over politics and trusts the federal government’s scientific experts outside of the VA with decisions about medical coverage, rather than VA and OMB bureaucrats. I am grateful for the leadership and tireless dedication of Jerry Ensminger and Senator Burr on behalf of Camp Lejeune veterans and their loved ones.”
"This bill, when passed, will finally place the responsibility of determining what if any adverse health effects would be expected from the exposure to a whole host of chemicals that were present in Camp Lejeune's tap water in the hands of the scientific experts of ATSDR who were created and mandated by Congress to do so,” said Master Sergeant Ensminger. “It will no longer be left to the personal preferences or the untrained staff of the VA to make these determinations on their own. I want to thank both North Carolina Senators Burr and Tillis for their steadfast commitment to our plight and seeking justice for the nearly one million Camp Lejeune veterans, their families, and the thousands of loyal civilian employees who were unwittingly exposed to this negligence by their own leaders."
Master Sergeant Ensminger has been a tireless advocate for members of the military and their families that were harmed by toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune. In September 2015, Ensminger testified before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
WATCH: Ensminger: Janey is but one example of the multitude of tragedies suffered by former Camp Lejeune families who were exposed by this negligence.
In August of 2012, President Obama signed the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 bill into law. This law, authored by Senator Burr, requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide health care to veterans and their family members who have certain diseases and conditions as a result of exposure to well-water contaminated by human carcinogens at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. However, the VA has resisted providing health care benefits to many of these veterans and their family members because it has not recognized the scientific links between the exposure to toxins and certain diseases that have been found by government researchers at the ATSDR.
Text of the Janey Ensminger Act of 2016 is available here.
A one pager on the legislation is available here.