WASHINGTON, D.C. (WECT) – The “Honoring our PACT Act of 2022″ has passed both chambers of congress, and now needs one more vote of approval from the house before heading to President Biden’s desk.
The bill would extend healthcare benefits for veterans exposed to toxic chemicals both at home and abroad.
In its current form, the bill includes the “Camp Lejeune Justice Act,” which would allow anyone who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, and later suffered an illness linked to the contamination to sue the government for damages.
Jerry Ensminger served in the Marine Corps for nearly a quarter-century, living with his family at Camp Lejeune for years.
In 1985, his daughter Jamey died of leukemia when she was nine years old. Years later, Ensminger realized her illness could have been linked to the toxic chemicals discovered in Camp Lejeune’s water supply.
“We were sitting in her room one evening and she said, ‘Daddy, I don’t want to die.’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t want you to die either.’ She said, ‘No, I don’t wanna die because I want to make a change in this world.’ And if she only knew what kind of change she was making through me,” Ensminger said.
In 2012, President Obama signed a bill into law called the Janey Ensminger Act, but benefits for victims and their families were limited because the statute of repose for that type of lawsuit ordinarily expires after ten years.
Even if the bill is signed into law, Ensminger says the fight for justice will continue.
“One of my major goals in this fight that I’ve been in for 25 years has been to make sure that this doesn’t happen to another group of military people and their families on another base somewhere else,” he said. “I mean, these people have to learn their lesson.”
To read the latest version of the bill, click here.
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