The Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) was signed into law on August 10, 2022, as part of the Honoring Our PACT Act. According to recent news reports, more than 5,000 victims have already filed a claim to receive support for their injuries sustained by exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. However, according to the Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, up to one million people were exposed to the contamination. This means hundreds of thousands more victims could still step forward, taking action under the CLJA.
The Camp Lejeune legislation creates a rare opportunity for victims to seek restitution directly from the U.S. government. Filing a claim with the help of a Camp Lejeune lawyer is the first step for those seeking compensation for Camp Lejeune water contamination injuries. It also overrides long-standing state law in North Carolina, where Camp Lejeune is based. The North Carolina Statute of Repose has prohibited individuals from filing claims after ten years. This law has presented challenges to many victims whose Camp Lejeune injuries did not surface immediately.
For 30 years, beginning in the 1950s, toxins, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, vinyl chloride and benzene, flowed through two separate water systems at Camp Lejeune due to the improper disposal of chemical waste. These VOCs are known to cause severe medical conditions ranging from Parkinson’s disease to kidney failure, several forms of cancer, miscarriages and birth defects.
Support for Camp Lejeune victims from the U.S. government has come in fits and starts. This can be seen clearly with the fact that despite Camp Lejeune being identified as an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Site in 1989, it is not until now, 33 years later, that the CLJA is giving the exception from governmental immunity protections and allowing victims to file Camp Lejeune lawsuits.
And, while benefits have been available for some Camp Lejeune victims through the government, perhaps one of the reasons for the early surge in Camp Lejeune claims is due to the way in which the benefits have been handled over the years. On August 25, 2022, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Veterans Administration (VA) released the results of a Camp Lejeune disability claims investigation. The OIG looked into a VA program started back in 2017 which provides disability benefits directly to military personnel harmed by the Camp Lejeune contamination.
After a review of five years worth of claims, the OIG determined that workers made mistakes on one in every three of the Camp Lejeune disability claims filed. This included workers erroneously denying more than 17,000 of the claims before they received complete information from the claimant.
Who Can Receive Compensation for Camp Lejeune Injuries?
Any person, whether active military, veteran or civilian, who was exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987 and has suffered injuries due to the exposure is eligible to file a claim under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act.
Along with surviving victims, if a person’s family member died due to an illness linked to the toxins at Camp Lejeune, there may be grounds for a wrongful death case.
Veterans already receiving benefits or programs administered by the VA related to Camp Lejeune contamination are also eligible to file a CLJA claim for damages. However, these types of damage awards will be offset by the amount of any disability award, payment, or benefit provided to the individual, or legal representatives, such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance programs, or Veterans Affairs Disability programs.
Camp Lejeune Injury Claims Pocess
The first step in seeking compensation for injuries or wrongful death is to file a Camp Lejeune claim with the Office of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the Navy’s Tort Claims Unit (TCU). All claims must be filed by August 10, 2024.
If the claim is denied and a Camp Lejeune settlement is not reached, the claimant can file a civil lawsuit. All CLJA lawsuits are being handled in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Here is a list of the illnesses associated with Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water:
- Aplastic anemia
- Birth defects
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Cardiac defects
- End-stage renal disease
- Esophageal cancer
- Hepatic steatosis (also known as fatty liver disease)
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma (a cancer of plasma cells)
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson disease
- Renal disease
- Scleroderma (an autoimmune connective tissue and rheumatic disease that causes inflammation in the skin and other areas of the body.)
In addition to these serious conditions, the contaminated drinking water also caused adverse birth outcomes like miscarriages, stillbirths and neurobehavioral effects. Hundreds of babies whose mothers were exposed to contaminated water died in utero or at birth.
If you or a loved one has suffered harm, whether an illness, birth defect or even death, brought on by the Camp Lejeune water contamination, and are unsure about filing a CLJA claim, consider seeking out legal assistance. A knowledgeable Camp Lejeune lawyer can help you determine if you qualify to file a claim and explain your other legal options. They can help determine the amount of compensation you deserve for the injuries, taking into account several factors, including not only loss of wages but also pain and suffering, lost enjoyment of life and future cost of medical expenses.
Remember, with the Camp Lejeune Justice Act there comes a deadline to file a claim. A lawyer can make sure your claim is filed on time, follow up with the JAG regarding a claim and can determine the best steps forward if a claim is denied.