I want to give you an update on one of my favorite veterans, Juan Santiago, who is fighting not one, but two extraordinary battles with the VA.
I’ve talked about previously Mr. Santiago’s struggle to prove that he, like hundreds of other veterans who have corroborated his account, handled Agent Orange while stationed on Okinawa. The VA, the U.S. and Japan don’t want the truth to come out. But no one can deny that independent testing has shown that Agent Orange components were discovered on buried drums on an abandoned U.S. base that had been serving has a soccer field for local children.
Mr. Santiago has also been working on another claim. He, like many others, was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where the VA has now admitted the drinking water was polluted with industrial waste:
From the 1950s through the 1980s, people living or working at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, were potentially exposed to drinking water contaminated with industrial solvents, benzene, and other chemicals.
We now have medical evidence, based on research by an epidemiologist, that the chemicals Mr. Santiago drank every morning with his breakfast were likely the cause of the cancer he know fights.
Everyone knows about the combat hazards of serving in the military. But what people don’t realize is the chemical hazards these men and women face everyday. You and I can live apart from the day-to-day industrial waste this country generates. But our people in the military have never had that choice. Part of their jobs is to live in the shadows of storage tanks full of nightmares. And the storage tanks leak.
Here’s what other veterans should know: The VA will or should provide medical treatment to veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune, but they will not grant benefits based on exposure there without a medical opinion. Find a good service officer or lawyer to help you.