Veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune seek reparations for toxic water exposure

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — President Joe Biden is planning to sign a bill into law Monday that expands health care benefits for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

The bill, called the PACT Act, will also have an impact on North Carolina veterans who were exposed to toxic water for decades at Camp Lejeune.

The water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with a variety of hazardous chemicals between 1953 and 1987.

“I had my prostate removed about 11 years ago,” said U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. (Ret) Joe Major. “I was told I had prostate cancer.”

Major spent 26 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and served at Camp Lejeune.

Hundreds of thousands of veterans have been exposed to toxic chemicals, including Agent Orange in Vietnam, toxic smoke from burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, and contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.

“I do sleep a lot,” said U.S. Army Sgt. (Ret) Elisa Milo. “I’m constantly tired and after that, it’s mostly mental.”

Milo was exposed to toxic smoke at a burn pit.

Many are grateful the PACT Act passed in Congress.

“Passing this bill will give them an opportunity to seek the compensation and assistance and help that they need,” said Craig Little, who leads the local Montford Point Marine Association. “It’s more than just money. It’s about getting fixed. It’s about getting whatever injuries you have identified, corrected.”

The association has hired an attorney to help veterans file claims with the government.

“As people continue to learn about this act, learn about the possibilities of the compensation, they may recover I’m getting more and more calls,” said Kevin Edwards, an attorney and military veteran.

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Major said he is worried that his exposure could cost him in the future and also thinks about those who didn’t get help in time.

“Unfortunately, it’s too late for a lot of veterans that have died,” he said. “A good friend of mine died from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”

Major said his friend also served at Camp Lejeune.

He said he intends to file a claim.