VA extends Parkinson's benefits to families of service members who were at Camp Lejeune

The Department of Veterans Affairs has extended Parkinson's disease coverage to families of servicemembers who were stationed at Camp Lejeune while drinking water was contaminated in the area. File Photo by Alexis C. Glenn/UPI

Nov. 10 (UPI) -- The Department of Veterans' Affairs announced Friday that it will cover the cost of Parkinson's disease treatment for the families of veterans who served at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987.

An unknown number of people developed illnesses after serving at the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C, due to contamination in the drinking water that supplied the base.

According to the VA, the risk of Parkinson's disease is 70% higher for veterans who served at Camp Lejeune.

"These family members are also eligible for health care reimbursement for esophageal cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, leukemia, multiple myeloma, renal toxicity, miscarriage, hepatic steatosis, female infertility, myelodysplastic syndromes, scleroderma, neurobehavioral effects, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma," the VA said in a press release Friday.

"We're proud to add Parkinson's to the list of conditions that are covered for Veteran family members, and we implore anyone who may be living with this disease -- or any of the other conditions covered by the VA's Camp Lejeune Family Mmeber Program -- to apply for assistance today," said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Shereef Elnahal.

In May, a study in JAMA Neurology showed that service members and their families who were stationed at Camp Lejeune during the contamination were at much higher risk for Parkinson's disease.

Studies suggest that trichloroethylene, an industrial degreaser that was once widely used in the area of Camp Lejeune, is linked to Parkinson's disease.

The 2022 PACT Act extended the list of so-called "presumptive conditions" related to exposure to burn pits and toxic substances.

A "presumptive condition" is a category where a service member is presumed to have gotten the condition from a specific aspect of their service.

In other words, veterans who become sick with presumptive conditions while serving or after serving in designated areas don't have to prove a connection between their service and their condition.

The VA has compiled a list of presumptive conditions for service members who were stationed at Camp Lejeune during the contamination.