JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – The Honoring Our PACT ACT, meant to extend healthcare benefits for veterans exposed to toxic chemicals both at home and abroad, has been blocked by the U.S. Senate.
It’s a crushing blow to a bill that many veterans and their families have been eager to see signed into law.
Fifty five senators voted in favor – while 42 voted against the motion – including both of North Carolina’s senators.
“It’s very difficult,” retired Marine David Graves says.
Former Reserve Marine Curtis Crawford agrees. “It’s a darn shame.”
The bill includes the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, a proposal to give compensation to those who lived or worked on board Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987 and suffer from severe illness. Crawford says he’s one of those people.
“I was onboard at Camp Lejeune in 1981 for just 49 days with the reserves. I’ve got subacute cutaneous lupus, fibromyalgia, degenerative disk disease, the list goes on,” Crawford said.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Crawford, along with the rest of an estimated 1 million people who lived and worked at Camp Lejeune, are believed to have been exposed to contaminated drinking water wells at the base.
The wells are believed to have had toxins in them, caused by an underground fuel tank leaking more than a million gallons of fuel over the years.
Republican North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis was among the representatives who voted against the bill. Tillis did not comment Friday but referred to a June statement on the reasoning for voting against, saying:
While the bill still awaits approval, veterans say their health needs attention now.
“A young person gives up their life for this country, but yet the promises that you were to take care of us,” Graves says.
“I just pray that the bill passes and that we’ll get some relief in our lives because dying a little bit each day, it’s just not good,” Crawford says.
Officials say there are a number of diseases linked to the Camp Lejeune water contamination, including several different forms of body cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, and multiple sclerosis.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry compared causes of death for thousands of Marines and personnel stationed at Lejeune with Camp Pendleton in California where the water was not contaminated during the time period in question.
They found that the Camp Lejeune group had significantly higher mortality rates.
Do you see something needing a correction? Email us!
Copyright 2022 WITN. All rights reserved.