Recent press reporting has included news about environmental contamination issues at multiple military bases. In November 2021, it was reported that 14,000 gallons of jet fuel had contaminated the water supply at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. What was less covered was the decades of ongoing leaks from the facility, reported to be at least 200,000 gallons since the facility was constructed in 1940. In North Carolina, the biggest news on this subject has been the efforts to seek compensation for people who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune or the New River air station.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has a page on their website that sets out a statement that “As a part of the Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, qualifying Veterans can receive all their health care (except dental care) from VA if they served on active duty at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, even if they don’t have a health condition that is presumed to be related to exposure. For individuals with one of the 15 medical conditions presumed to be related to exposure, there is no charge for care. For other health conditions, Veterans will have a co-pay, depending on income and health eligibility priority category.” This eligibility was based on the January 2017 order of Barak Obama to provide disability compensation for certain conditions.
On June 16, 2022, the United States Senate passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act which will allow for anyone who lived on the bases between 1952 and 1987 for at least 30 days to file a claim for compensation and is funded through the Treasury Judgement Fund. The act had already been approved by the House of Representatives and reporting indicates that it is expected to be signed by Joe Biden. Despite crowing on their websites about having introduced the act in 2021, both North Carolina Senators voted against the act. In an email to Quaker House, Senator Tillis attempted to justify his opposition to the related PACT Act by claiming that he had concerns about the impact of the act on the Veterans Administration. He made the same claims to the Raleigh News and Observer and in both cases failed to express any interest or support for providing the additional funding the Veterans Administration would need to address his concerns.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently issued new advisories on Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Susbstances (PFAS) that were substantially more restrictive than prior rules. Fort Bragg has been identified as one of “the most contaminated sites” for PFAS. The website of the Army’s Environmental Command currently (as of June 22, 2022) reports on water samples taken in December 2021. The reported levels of 22 parts per trillion are more than 900 times the new combined recommended levels of 0.024 parts per trillion.
Quaker House has worked for over 50 years to support members of the military and their families as they question their roles in the military and to work to address the damage caused by their service. The counseling program works to address individual harm in areas such as domestic violence, sexual assault, and moral injury. Efforts like the Camp Lejeune Justice Act are addressing the violence being silently done to everyone who have lived or worked on military bases. Support for the troops includes highlighting the pervasive damage done to individuals, to communities, and to the overall environment by the military.