Camp Lejeune veterans face battle for children's health

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We've investigated contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina for years. From the 1950s through the 1980s, up to a million people were exposed to water tainted with industrial solvents that leached into the system.

After years of waiting, the Department of Veterans Affairs expanded disability benefits to affected vets last year. But some vets say they believe their spouses and children were affected as well, but they cannot get access to the benefits.

Bob Boulay was a reservist at Camp Lejeune who said he drank the contaminated water for months. He blames the water for kidney and liver problems, and even a brain tumor he developed later in life.  And like many other Marines and reservists, he finally got benefits for his time on base. But his wife and children did not -- and under the military's current rules, they can't. 

"When you do it to me, that's one thing. But now you're doing it to my family. That's a whole other thing," said Boulay. "I can't believe the government has done this to us...It's not their fault. They don't deserve this. I signed up; they didn't."

His wife Janice had miscarriages which they believe were tied to the toxic water. His son Christian developed neurological problems, and his daughters Ashley and Erykha developed spina bifida. They say they had no family history of any of this, and suspect their health problems were triggered by Bob's exposure to the water. 

But the government will not approve benefits for family members who were not directly exposed to water on the base.

In Bob Boulay's case, the children were born after Bob and Janice left the base, and the government has not acknowledged that, as a parent, he can pass contaminated or mutated genes from Camp Lejeune on to his children.
The Navy Office of Information (CHINFO) responded with the following statement:

"This is a very important issue for the Department of the Navy and our entire Marine Corps family, and it is a deeply personal matter for Marine Corps leadership. The Marine Corps continues to work with leading scientific organizations to seek science-based answers to the health questions that have been raised. 

The Marine Corps relies on the scientific expertise of outside health agencies such as ATSDR to inform  its understanding of this issue. Scientific/medical studies continue to investigate whether diseases and disorders experienced by former Camp Lejeune residents and workers are or are not associated with previous exposure to the drinking water at Camp Lejeune in 1987 or before.  The Department of the Navy is supporting and working with both the Centers for Disease Control's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the National Academy of Sciences (specifically, the National Research Council (NRC)), and plans to continue support of ATSDR's study of possible associations between Camp Lejeune water exposures and health effects.

We have dedicated more than $30 million to fund these scientific efforts and also are coordinating with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Furthermore, we continue our commitment to find and notify those who used the water during the time period in question, and keep them informed regarding the latest scientific and medical information.

We established a call center and registry in 2007 so we can notify registrants and keep them informed as these health studies are completed. To date, we have registered and mailed direct notifications to more than 200,000 individuals.

The CLHDW call center directs former residents who believe their disease or adverse health condition is related to Camp Lejeune Historic Drinking Water (CLHDW) to contact their doctor with any health questions they may have,  to contact Veterans Affairs to file service related benefits claims, or to contact Navy Judge Advocate General about tort Claims."