WASHINGTON, D.C. – Good morning, Mr. Chairman. Welcome to our witnesses.
We have an extensive legislative agenda before us today, so in the interest of time I will be brief.
I will focus on a bill I introduced along with Senator Hagan–S. 1518, the Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act of 2009.
Two weeks ago we held a hearing on the water contamination that existed for three decades at Camp Lejeune.
We heard the personal story of Michael Partain, the son of a Marine, and one of over 20 former Camp Lejeune residents diagnosed with rare male breast cancer at an unusually young age – he was just 39 years old.
To show how rare it is, this condition usually strikes fewer than 2,000 men each year in the U.S., and it typically strikes those over the age of 55.
As I stated at the hearing, we have an obligation to figure out how much of these dangerous chemicals veterans and their families were exposed to and what impact these exposures have had on their health.
But, while we wait for the science, we must deal with the fact that many continue to suffer from devastating conditions. We shouldn’t ask sick veterans and family members to “hold on” while we wait on more studies. They have already waited two decades. We owe them much more than that.
That’s why I have introduced the Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act, which would allow veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune while the water was contaminated to get medical care from the VA.
It would also allow VA to treat their families for any conditions associated with exposure to the contaminated water. Providing health care to veterans and their families would be one step towards meeting our moral obligation to those who were put at risk.
There are other bills on today’s agenda I’m anxious to hear testimony on. Two bills in particular propose additional assistance for homeless veterans, an important priority of mine.
In fact, I have ready an amendment to the Milcon-VA Appropriations bill to increase funding for homeless programs by over $40 million. I’d ask the Committee members for their support of that amendment, and I look forward to learning more about the bills before us today.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
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