On July 7, 2015, Private First Class Donald Burpee died of kidney cancer at 59 years old. During his 8-year cancer battle, the Veterans Affairs (VA) denied Burpee disability despite the probability that Burpee’s cancer was caused by living conditions he experienced while in the Marine Corps. Sadly, Burpee died not knowing whether his widowed wife, his children, or his grandchildren would receive help following his death.
During his service, Burpee resided in Camp Lejeune for four months in 1975. Around 1980, scientists discovered that waters of Camp Lejuene had been severely contaminated by various chemicals from leaking underground storage tanks, spills, and disposed solvents. However, in these materials were chemicals known to be extremely dangerous to human health. Although scientists made the discovery around 1980, reports dictated the contamination must have started in the early 1950s. As a result, many of the veterans who lived at Camp Lejeune between those years suffered diseases such as prostate, bladder, and chronic-kidney cancers.
Feeling as though his kidney cancer was a result of the contamination, Burpee filed a disability claim to the VA office. However, the VA denied his application, stating that there was no substantial link that could explain Burpee’s kidney cancer with the contamination at Camp Lejeune. Although the VA covered his medical and hospice expenses, Burpee was left without disability for his family. Of course, this story gained much attention.
Following his death, Burpee’s family learned that the VA’s denial depended greatly on the launch of a claim review program ran by 22 experts who were hired by the agency to explore veteran claims. Due to the high number of veterans denied disability, critics speculated that the VA encouraged theses experts to deny various claims. Due to these types of issues, many began to take a stand and research why so many veterans were left without the appropriate care.
Jerry Ensminger, a retired Master Sergeant, was one of these suspicious persons. Ensminger spent roughly 18 years researching this issue. Through his research, he discovered that the VA approved less than 5 percent of the disability benefit claims filed by Lejeune veterans. Additionally, Ensminger found that roughly 25% of veterans were approved prior to the 2013 claim review program.
In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organizations found clear links between the chemicals which contaminated the water and the various cancers that veterans were suffering from. However, research shows that the VA failed to list these connections as well as the increased death rates caused by lymphoma and kidney cancer. Rather, the VA highlighted the absence of an increased death rate of Lejeune veterans.
Since then, many veterans and their families have been distressed regarding their futures. After dedicating their lives to serving the country, many are left unaware of what the future may hold. While many feel betrayed, others wonder what will happen if they suffer a case similar to Burpee’s. Will the nation stand behind their veterans, or will the VA continue to strip veterans of their privileges?
When Should You Contact Shook & Stone
Our Las Vegas veterans disability lawyers give their condolences to any family that may have lost a loved one due to reasons such as Burpee’s. Shook & Stone believe that every veteran deserves to be treated with the upmost respect and given the proper care at any given time. Our firm proudly supports the service and sacrifice of veterans. For this reason, we are passionate about giving veterans and their families the representation they deserve.
If you are a veteran seeking benefits, contact the Las Vegas veterans disability attorneys to see how we can help you.
To discuss you case, contact Shook & Stone today. Our firm fights for the compensation you deserve!