VA Issues Proposed Camp Lejeune Regulations

On September 9, 2016, VA published proposed regulations to allow presumptive service connection for eight diseases associated with exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. 81 FR 62419.  Under this rule, VA will provide presumptive service connection to veterans, former reservists, and former National Guard members who served for no less than 30 days (either consecutively or nonconsecutively) between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 and later developed one of the eight diseases.  Comments are due on or before October 11, 2016.

VA is only extending the presumption at this time to eight diseases, not all 14 currently recognized for VA healthcare purposes based on the findings of the National Research Council (NRC).  VA bases this decision on the findings of the VA Technical Workgroup (TWG), as detailed in the rule.  The eight diseases include (1) kidney cancer; (2) non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; (3) adult leukemia; (4) liver cancer; (5) bladder cancer; (6) multiple myeloma; (7) Parkinson’s disease; and (8) aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes.

VA is also establishing a presumption that affected individuals were disabled during the relevant period of service.  Therefore, “[u]nder this proposed presumption, affected former reservists and National Guard members would have veteran status for purposes of entitlement to some VA benefits.”  81 FR 62419.

VA notes there is no legal basis for the 30-day service requirement and VA experts “agree that there is no science to support a specific minimum exposure level for any of the conditions.”  81 FR 62423.  VA states it “welcomes comments on this requirement and will consider other practical alternatives when drafting the final rule.”  Id.

Finally, the rule will not be retroactive.  It will apply to claims received by VA on or after the date of the final rule, and to claims pending on that date.