Is This Camp Lejeune Widow Eligible for Benefits?

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

My husband was a Marine who had been stationed at various times in his career at Camp Lejeune, NC. As I am sure you have heard about the toxins in the water, and the high rates of cancer from Marines who had lived there. Lung cancer is one of the associated diseases....He passed away from Lung Cancer on 9 Aug 2012, he never smoked. I have received letters from the USMC stating he was eligible for VA treatment because he was stationed there during the time frame they have associated with the toxins in the water. I believe President Obama signed the legislation 4 days before my husband passed away. He never applied for any VA benefits. From the time he was diagnosed with cancer and passed away it was a total of 4 months. Would his death be considered military related just as soldiers in Vietnam had health issues associated with Agent Orange? Thank you.

From Alana T
Via the internet

Dear Alana,

According to the Military officers Association of America (MOAA) who believes that it should be, however, the VA hasn't conceded presumption for these cases as it has with the Agent Orange cases. You need to file a claim with the VA for Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC). The VA will have to make a service connection determination. You need to include his death certificate, his medical records from his cancer diagnosis, his DD214, any orders that you can find that said he was at Camp Lejeune and the housing records that prove he lived there. You can get the housing records from the Marine Corps. Please see the links below for further information on Camp Lejeune. Be sure to check the first link below about health care for veterans and dependents stationed at Camp Lejeune.

Camp Lejeune: Past Water Contamination:
http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/camp-lejeune/

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination (Historical):
http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/resources/publications/IB10-449_camp_lejeune_water_contamination_rev3_13.pdf

Compensation for Exposure to Contaminated Drinking Water at Camp Lejeune:
http://benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-postservice-exposures-camp_lejeune_water.asp

Shaft Notes

• If you are a Veteran with a severe service-connected disability that affects your mobility or if you know someone who is, then you or someone you know may be eligible for theSpecially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant program that is administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The SAH program helps certain severely-disabled Veterans and Servicemembers purchase or construct an adapted home, or modify an existing home, to create a barrier-free-living environment. VA offers two grant programs: the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant and the Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) grant.

The SHA grant can be used to increase the mobility of eligible Veterans and Servicemembers throughout their home. Veterans and Servicemembers with specific service-connected disabilities may be entitled to this type of grant, up to the current maximum of $13,511.

In addition to these two grant types, a temporary residential grant may be available to SAH/SHA eligible Veterans and Servicemembers who are or will be temporarily residing in a home owned by a family member. The maximum amount available to adapt a family member's home for the SAH grant is $29,657 and for the SHA grant it is $5,295. All grant amounts are indexed annually based on cost of construction, and the grant amounts will never decrease.

VA has staff located nationwide to assist individuals in applying for and receiving these grants. You can find more detailed information about qualifying disabilities here: http://benefits.va.gov/homeloans/adaptedhousing.asp, and you can find contact information for an SAH Agent in your area here: http://www.benefits.va.gov/HOMELOANS/contact_agents.asp.

Each Veteran’s housing/living needs are as unique as their physical disabilities.  The SAH program provides hands-on, personalized, customized service to severely-disabled Veterans seeking home adaptations.

• U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, on Thursday introduced emergency legislation that would reverse a sudden and largely unexplained Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) policy change that has restricted homeless veterans' access to housing and services. Senator Murray’s bill, The Homeless Veterans Services Protection Act (S. 2179), reverses a new VA policy by allowing community organizations who receive funding through the VA’s Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program to once again count veterans who don’t meet certain length of service or discharge requirements when calculating the federal GPD allotment that often allows these facilities to operate.

Just two weeks ago, a VA memo went out to these programs forbidding them from counting new homeless veterans who didn’t serve for two years or were given certain “other than honorable” discharges from service. That instruction meant that community organizations in many instances had to begin denying homeless veterans housing, and reversed the standard that VA and these providers have used for two decades. No contingency plan was given to provide for the veterans who would be turned away.

“This is federal bureaucracy at its most heartless,” said Senator Murray. “For the VA to suddenly tell homeless providers that they are limiting a successful, 20 year-old program in a way that will put more veterans on the streets, defies all common sense, particularly when this Administration has set the bold and commendable goal of ending veterans homelessness by 2015. If this is a question of cost the VA needs to come forward and say that and I will fight just as hard for funding as I will to restore eligibility.”

The change also affects the critical Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, which allows VA to award grants to organizations that assist very low income families living in or transitioning to permanent housing by providing them with a range of supportive services.

The VA recently announced that they would temporarily place a moratorium on the policy change after Senator Murray introduced legislation to reverse it. However, the VA has indicated that change is only temporary until a final legal opinion, which is expected to reaffirm this ban, is issued.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.