Flaherty seeks veterans made ill by camp’s water

HUDSON–“The government has determined that the water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, has been poisoned for years,” Gary Flaherty, executive director of the Columbia County Veterans’ Services Department said in a phone interview January 2. Camp Lejeune is a major Marine Corps base, and one of Mr. Flaherty’s his current goals is to get compensation for veterans who now have illnesses attributed to Camp Lejeune’s water.

A year ago the Federal Register published a rule by the Veteran’s Affairs Department that applied to the period from August 1, 1953 to December 31, 1987 and “establishes that veterans, former reservists, and former National Guard members, who served at Camp Lejeune for no less than 30 days (consecutive or nonconsecutive) during this period, and who have been diagnosed with any of eight associated diseases, are presumed to have incurred or aggravated the disease in service for purposes of entitlement to VA benefits.”

Most of the diseases listed are cancers.

Mr. Flaherty said his other concerns include:

• Establishing facilities in the United States for testing veterans for a certain parasite attributed to raw and undercooked fish in Asia. This parasite “takes 40 to 50 years” to develop, but once developed it can sicken or kill its host. Military personnel in Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia, during their free time, had opportunities to eat raw and undercooked fish, sometimes unwittingly. If the parasite is diagnosed before its symptoms manifest themselves, appropriate medical treatment can ward off or reduce its effects.

Until recently the only way to diagnose the parasite for certain has been by autopsy. Now there is a blood test for it, but the federal Food Drug Administration says there is no lab in the United States that can perform the test accurately, according to Mr. Flaherty. Currently, the only place to get the blood test is in Seoul, South Korea. Mr. Flaherty indicated he will advocate for a lab to do the blood test in the U.S.

• Trying, for the third year, to get the New Lebanon School District to give veterans a property tax break. “All the other school districts have it,” Mr. Flaherty said.

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