Retired Marine: Camp Lejeune payout a good first step, but not enough

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (WNCT) – After years of fighting, thousands of Marines and their families now have justice.

Just days before leaving office, the Obama administration agreed to pay $2 billion dollars to veterans exposed to contaminated drinking water.

Retired Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger was affected by the contamination. He said it is a good first step, but it’s not nearly enough.

“I could never say it’s too little, but it’s definitely too late for a lot of people who are already dead,” Ensminger said.

Ensminger served in the Marines for more than 20 years.

His family lived in base housing aboard Camp Lejeune.

While there, the water was contaminated with chemicals like TCE, at five times the legal limit.

Those chemicals are known to promote diseases like leukemia, numerous cancers, Parkinson’s and multiple myeloma.

The Obama administration agreed Thursday to provide disability benefits totaling more than $2 billion to veterans exposed to contaminated drinking water aboard Camp Lejeune.

The VA estimates about 900,000 service members were potentially exposed between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.

Ensminger said the payout is a good first step but not enough since dependents of Marines aren’t covered by the rule.

“His wife or children or both get diagnosed with one of those eight health effects; they don’t get squat,” said Ensminger.

Ensminger said he is pleased with the work done by senators and Congress, but his anger lies with Marine Corps officials who knew of the contamination and did nothing for years.

“I found out that ‘Semper Fidelis’ is a one-way street,” said Ensminger. “It’s up not down. They’re not loyal to their subordinates.”

Those Marines hope to see Marine Corps officials involved in the scandal held accountable for their inaction.

Payouts may supplement VA health care provided to eligible Marines.

Affected veterans can now submit applications for those benefits.

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