WASHINGTON – Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have introduced S. 1563, The Janey Ensminger Act of 2019, to ensure individuals with diseases scientifically linked to toxic chemical exposure at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina receive proper medical care from the Veterans Administration (VA). The bill is named for Janey Ensminger, daughter of Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger, who was born at Camp Lejeune and died as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals.
“Our country is fortunate incredible individuals who volunteer to serve our military and are willing to risk their lives to defend it,” said Senator Cardin. “Our Service members and their families should not be subjected to toxic substances and conditions while living and working on U.S. military installations. Our veterans and families who are exposed to such conditions deserve to receive the appropriate benefits and care from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. The illnesses have been scientifically-linked to conditions at Camp Lejeune, and our government has a responsibility to ensure the veterans and families impacted are helped.”
“It is unconscionable that the VA continues to deny and delay medical care to families suffering as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals at Camp Lejeune,” said Senator Burr. “Providing these veterans and their affected family members with the medical care they both need and have earned should not be up for debate. The Janey Ensminger Act makes sure the cause of reported diseases continues to be determined by scientific data, not bureaucratic red tape.”
“While progress has been made to ensure that veterans and their families who were poisoned at Camp Lejeune receive the benefits they have long deserved, some victims are still not receiving the care to which they are entitled because the VA has refused to accept the most up to date scientific data and research available,” said Senator Tillis. “The Janey Ensminger Act of 2019 prioritizes science over politics and trusts the federal government’s independent scientific experts outside of the VA with decisions about medical coverage to ensure that every Camp Lejeune veteran gets the care they need and deserve.”
“If our servicemembers are exposed to toxic substances in the line of duty, it’s our duty to ensure they get the best care possible,” Senator Tester said. “There’s no question that veterans and their families at Camp Lejeune were wrongfully exposed to harmful conditions. We’ve now got to do our part to help those suffering from illnesses by providing the quality medical care and benefits they’re owed.”
“I’m proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing The Janey Ensminger Act and standing on the side of veterans who have been suffering from various cancers and diseases after being poisoned at Camp Lejeune,” Senator Rubio said. “It’s unacceptable that they are uncertain about their medical coverage and they deserve prompt medical care.”
In 2017, Sergeant Ensminger testified before the Veterans Affairs Committee about the significant challenges Camp Lejeune families face.
“[N]o other military toxic exposure incident in our history has been documented nor studied as thoroughly as Camp Lejeune,” Sergeant Ensminger told the Committee. “Much of the science is already in and more is coming in future study reports. Many Camp Lejeune veterans and their families have waited, suffered, and yes even died waiting for this scientific evidence, they shouldn’t need to wait any longer for the help they deserve.”
You can read the text of the Janey Ensminger Act of 2019 here.
You can read a one-pager summarizing the legislation here.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ASTDR) has determined a number of cancers and other diseases found in individuals who lived at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina between 1953 and 1987 are scientifically linked to exposure to contaminated well-water. The VA is required to provide health care to veterans and their family members suffering from health problems as a result of this toxic chemical exposure, but the agency continues to challenge certain findings, often delaying or denying care.
The Janey Ensminger Act of 2019 requires ASTDR to review every three years the relationships between specific illnesses or conditions reported and time spent at Camp Lejeune, and to determine to what extent they may have been caused by toxic chemical exposure. It also requires ASTDR to publish the classifications on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website.