- Summary of Meetings in Washington, DC ,Nov.12-15
Representing The Stand on Nov. 12 was Karen Strand, Lita Hyland, Jeff Byron, and Andrea Byron. Jeff Byron gave a brief speech at the American Legion Hall in Springfield, VA regarding the water contamination on Camp Lejeune. A few of the members had friends and family who may have been affected.
Wed. Nov. 13 a meeting was hosted by David Crotts (staffer for Sen. Jesse Helm of NC) and was attended by staff for Rep. McIntyre, Rep. Hayes, Sen. Edwards, Rep. Walter Jones, all of NC and staffer for Rep. Boehner of OH, and staffer representing Rockefeller of VA. Also attending was Tom Dail, reporter for The Daily News in Jacksonville, NC. Representing The Stand was Karen Strand, Lita Hyland, Jeff Byron, Andrea Byron, Christie Perez, and Chris Perez. During the meeting we spoke about getting a standstill agreement to halt the statute of limitations. Material Safety Data Sheets and copies of the Tarawa Terrace notification letter were distributed. We expressed concern that the notification to residents and the follow up article in the Globe newspaper was unclear as to the depth of the contamination and seemed to mainly deal with water conservation due to switching water systems. The correlation to the SHAD project was discussed as well as talk of involvement of other veterans organizations. The staffers assured us of their help and met with each other after we left to discuss how they could further help us.
4pm meeting with Staffer for Sen. Clinton of NY. Above issues were discussed with the exception of the SHAD project. Brought attention to Executive Order 13045 signed by President Clinton, protecting children from environmental health and safety risks and 12898 which addresses environmental justice in minority and low-income populations, also signed by Clinton. Executive order 13045 Extending the Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children and 13214, President's Task Force to Improve Health Care Delivery for Our Nation's Veterans both signed by President Bush. Also brought up was a reference to S. 2054 Nationwide Health Tracking Act of 2002 that Clinton, Kennedy, and Reed introduced as legislation that would set up national and state networks to track environmental illnesses and relevant risk factors. The bill would provide for the first comprehensive data collection study connections between environmental contamination and chronic diseases.
Nov. 14 meeting with Peter Murphy, General Counsel to the Commandant of the USMC, and Lt. Col. Darrin Jump. In this meeting we requested their help in obtaining a standstill agreement through the Dept. of Justice. We discussed our health effects and concerns for our members and their illnesses. We discussed lack of notification and need for studies. Lt. Col. Jump discussed "sovereign immunity." This means that the federal government cannot be sued unless they consent. Only Congress can waive federal sovereign immunity. He also advised us to read up on the Federal Tort Claims Act. We were asked to present a letter detailing specific rational of why the current statute of limitations is wrong or unjust. We need to decide if we would like the statue changed only for our specific cause or for the entire Federal Tort Claims Act. Nov. 15 meeting with Mark A. Brown, MS, PhD who is Director of Environmental Agents Service at the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. This text is taken from the notes provided by Dr. Brown and we concur. Veterans' concerns and requests: During the meeting this group expressed a number of specific concerns and requests: This group is concerned about a possible law suit against the government for damage to the health of their children, and that a statute of limitation may restrict their ability to bring such a suit. They realize that VA has no authority in this area. This group is very concerned that although 200,000 Marines and their families were exposed to these contaminants while stationed at Camp Lejeune from 1968 to 1985, the majority are unaware that they or their families were exposed to potentially toxic chemicals. They requested that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs request the Secretary of Defense to provide VA the names of all veterans serving at Camp lejeune during this period, and that VA nofify those veterans about their exposure and potential health problems. This group had unsuccessfully requested a meeting with the Sec. of Health and Human Services about the CDC childhood cancer study to discuss why the study is taking so long to complete. They requested that Sec. Principi help them by requesting the Sec. of HHS to provide a contact with CDC to discuss the birth defects study of the children of the Camp Lejeune veterans. This group was very aware of VA's activities for Project SHAD veterans, and they appear to think they have much in common with that group. They requested that VA conduct a study on the health of Camp Lejeune veterans. They consider that such a study will be critical for supporting health care and compensation claims of Camp Lejeune veterans. Conclusion: This group appeared to be pleased with the reception given to them by VA at this meeting. They pointed out that VA was much more responsive than either HHS or DOD. While in Washington, they are also meeting with the Congressmen, and with key House and Senate committees. They have also been contacting VSOs and the media. While they were satisfied with this meeting, I expect taht we will be hearing more from them in the future. The group also met that afternoon with the offices of Rep. David Price and Rep. Howard Coble of NC. Handed out prepared packets with pertinent information and discussed standstill agreement. They were then asked to get in touch with other representatives working on our behalf. During our trip, we came in contact with a few members of different veterans organizations. One gentleman we spoke with would like to publish our story in a magazine, Rolling Thunder. The readers of this magazine are veteran motorcycle enthusiasts. We also met a few members from the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, who were in DC trying to get legislation passed for Filipino rights.