ERIE, Pa - After being diagnosed with bladder cancer in 1979 at only 35 years old, one veteran finally has an answer to the question...why?
Joe Schneider's doctors called it an "old man's disease"...now, nearly 40 years later, Joe Schneider just received an official letter from the Marine Corp that finally provides some answers.
He went decades without questioning the reasoning behind his bladder cancer, until some information about Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corp base in North Carolina, began to surface.
Water, loaded with contaminants, circulated through the base's water supply for an estimated 30 years.
The contaminants were coming from a dry cleaning facility on the base.
Schneider, stationed there for more than a year in the '60s, immediately began his own research.
In 2011, Schneider filed paperwork at the VA about Camp Lejeune...his claim was denied.
The issue, however, recently resurfaced.
"Actually, the letter just came about a week ago and it actually came in a very official ... as soon as I saw the Marine Crop emblem, from Camp Lejeune, historic drinking water."
The Marine Corp is reaching out to hundreds of thousands of veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune during a certain time frame.
The Department of Veterans affairs has established a presumption of service connection for eight diseases associated with exposure to the water...including adult leukemia, Parkinson's, Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and bladder cancer.
"Schneider has a message for his fellow veterans that were stationed in Camp Lejeune."
"Semper Fi ... keep the faith, get up there, and get treatment if you need it."
The Erie VA Medical Center sent us a statement that says...
"As part of VA's ongoing commitment to provide quality health care to Veterans, VA has established a presumption of service connection for eight diseases associated with exposure to contaminants in the water supply at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Presumptive diseases related to the exposure contaminants include: adult leukemia, aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin' lymphoma, and Parkinson's disease.
Active duty, reserve, and National Guard members who served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River, N.C. For a minimum of 30 days (cumulative) from August 1, 1953, through December 31, 1987, may be eligible for disability benefits. The presumption rule was published on January 13, 2017.
We encourage any Veterans who served in Active duty, reserve, and National Guard members who meet the criteria to reach out to the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Regional Office (located in Pittsburgh) at 1-800-827-1000 to see if they may be eligible for disability benefits associated with exposure to contaminants in the water supply at Camp Lejeune. Veterans may also apply online at eBenefits.gov or they can reach out to a local accredited representative (such as a VFW, American Legion, DAV, etc.) for assistance submitting a claim.
We also encourage all those who served in the military to apply for VA health care benefits so Veterans can receive top-quality, veteran-specific health care!"
Despite what Schneider faced in his life...he holds no resentment.
"As far as I'm concerned the Marine Corp is the best thing that's ever happened to me."
For more information on the water containment at Camp Lejeune and benefits offered to affected veterans, check out the link below: