JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Three veterans' groups have sued the Department of Veterans Affairs over its handling of claims about contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
Multiple media outlets report the lawsuit was filed by Vietnam Veterans of America; The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten; and the Connecticut State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America.
BACKGROUND:VA grants automatic benefits to Camp Lejeune vets with any of 8 illnesses
The lawsuit says between 1953 and 1987 nearly 1 million Marines, sailors, civilian employees and family members unknowingly "drank, cooked with, and bathed in contaminated water" at Camp Lejeune.
Henry Huntley, a public affairs specialist with the Veterans Administration, told the Daily News of Jacksonville that he was not familiar with the lawsuit and could not comment.
WNCT in Greenville, N.C., reports the lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Connecticut with assistance from a veterans legal service team at Yale Law School.
The lawsuit challenges the department's system set up to handle claims stemming from the medical problems suffered by those exposed to the water.
The groups say the claim approval rate has dropped from 25 percent to 8 percent since the program started in 2012.
The lawsuit says a group of 30 doctors works under the agency's Subject Matter Expert Program and the veterans groups have not been able to determine the panel's credentials and qualifications.
Those suing say they are also concerned about what they see as a selective implementation of the claims review panel.
"Camp Lejeune veterans are the only veterans that have been subjected to this so-called subject matter expert program," said Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, a retired Marine and founder of The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten.
All other veterans file normal claims, but the VA has a Camp Lejeune Task Force, Ensminger said he learned this week.