Up & Coming Weekly

June 27, 2023

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 6 of 24

6 UCW JUNE 28 - JULY 4, 2023 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM While defending our country, veterans faced countless dangers, from permanent hearing loss to traumatic brain injuries. Still, a more obscure risk serv- ing in the military entails is toxic exposure, which is responsible for crippling diseases among veterans. As a consequence of negligence, the vast majority of military bases nationwide are now contaminated with toxic substances. e city of Fayetteville is home to over 25,600 veterans, some of whom have been stationed at polluted military bases during active duty. Established in 1918, the instal- lation is the largest in the country by population, with 43,414 active- duty military personnel training and living there. Today, the mili- tary base is known as Fort Liberty, as it had originally been named after a Confederate. Unfortunately, the environment of the military base is contami- nated with perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, com- monly known as PFAS or "forever chemicals." Out of this group of over 9,000 toxic chemicals, PFOA and PFOS are the most harmful, as they have a strong association with cancer. According to the new safe expo- sure limits proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agen- cy, the concentration of PFOA and PFOS in the environment of Fort Liberty is very high. Specifi- cally, the PFOA level exceeds the maximum limit by 6,400 times, while the PFOS level eclipses the proposed limits by 1,135 times. ese chemicals are emerging contaminants, being able to per- sist in the environment for over a thousand years. ey are chal- lenging to remove from ground- water and soil, even with the most innovative technologies. A military base with a sig- nificantly worse legacy of toxic contamination is Camp Lejeune, located in Jacksonville. For 34 years during the last century, two of the eight water distribution plants at the facility were heavily contaminated with solvents, including trichloroethyl- ene and vinyl chloride. As many as one million people lived there while the drinking water was unsafe to consume. PFAS were also lurking in Camp Lejeune's water in a concentration exceeding the current safe expo- sure limit by over 2,500 times. In the past, veterans affected by toxic exposure on military bases had a difficult time obtaining the VA benefits they were entitled to. Today, by virtue of the Honoring Our PACT Act, they have easier access to the healthcare and com- pensation they deserve. is bill was signed into law on Aug. 10, 2022. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, the PACT Act is one of the largest health care and benefit expansions in VA history. e full name of the law is e Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. e Honoring Our PACT Act extends the VA healthcare eligi- bility criteria for veterans injured by toxic exposure; adds over 20 new presumptive conditions; and requires the VA to offer a toxic ex- posure screening to each veteran enrolled in the system. Under this new law, Fayetteville veterans struggling with diseases caused by toxic exposure on mili- tary bases can file for VA disability compensation and receive free healthcare with considerably more ease than in the past. e Camp Lejeune Justice Act is also part of the Honoring Our PACT Act, under which everyone who spent time at the military base when the drinking water was contaminated can obtain compensation from the U.S. government. To learn more about the Hon- oring Our PACT Act visit https:// www.va.gov/ Editor's note: Jonathan Sharp is Chief Financial Officer at Envi- ronmental Litigation Group, P.C. e law firm offers assistance to veterans and family members in- jured by toxic exposure on military installations. Honoring Our PACT Act helps veterans qualify for Veterans Affairs benefits by JONATHAN SHARP OPINION JONATHAN SHARP, Contributor. COMMENTS? Editor@upandcomingweek- ly.com. 910-484-6200. Military veterans may be entitled to VA assistance if exposed to forever chemicals or other toxins on military installations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez, courtesy DVIDS)

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