Veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune can now sue the government for injuries sustained due to the water contamination at the military base. But veterans may wonder whether they can file a Camp Lejeune claim and still get benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Survivors of Camp Lejeune water contamination who qualify for government benefits can still file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit over their injuries, and their VA benefits won’t be affected by the claim. Veterans will sometimes receive Camp Lejeune settlements while still collecting monthly disability payments from the VA.
Camp Lejeune is a Marine Corps military base in North Carolina. For more than three decades, the water wells at the base were contaminated with various chemicals not meant for human consumption. Servicemembers and their family members unknowingly bathed in and drank water that contained chemicals like benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), and vinyl chloride. The water wells were finally closed in the 1980s, but it was years too late for many veterans. More than a million people were exposed to the contaminated water supply, and many of them later developed health conditions linked to toxic water exposure.
Evidence suggests that the military knew about the potential for toxic exposure years before the water treatment plants were closed, and affected veterans have argued for years that the government acted negligently. Historically, veterans and active duty servicemembers couldn’t sue for injuries sustained during service; instead, they had to file for VA benefits. The Camp Lejeune Act of 2022 created a two-year window for Camp Lejeune victims to file claims and seek compensation for their losses.
You can fill out the Camp Lejeune Justice Act Claims form and email it to the Navy JAG’s Tort Claims Unit on your own, but it may be more beneficial to have a Camp Lejeune lawyer handle the claim instead. When the government announced the claims process, the Tort Claims Unit had 180 days to respond with a denial or settlement offer. But there’s a backlog of Camp Lejeune cases, and none have been settled due to staffing issues and a lack of funding.
Finding A Camp Lejeune Lawyer
While legal representation isn’t required for the Camp Lejeune claims process or applying for VA benefits, the applications can be complex, and appealing a denial can be a lengthy ordeal. An attorney can assist you in gathering relevant documents and submitting evidence. They’ll work on your behalf to link the medical conditions you experience to your time at Camp Lejeune. Hiring a Camp Lejeune lawyer is the best way to ensure you have a better chance of a successful claim and receiving the compensation you deserve.
While Camp Lejeune claims and lawsuits hang in the balance, veterans can still receive benefits from the VA.
How To Apply For Camp Lejeune VA Benefits
If you were stationed at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, you can apply for VA benefits under the Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012. You must first enroll in VA healthcare if you haven’t already participated in the program. You can apply online or call 877-222-8387 for help. Enrolling in VA healthcare means you’ll have coverage for preventative care like annual check-ups and immunizations, and you can also get covered for appointments with specialists. When you apply for benefits, you should tell VA staff that you served at Camp Lejeune during the contamination period. Family members can also qualify for VA healthcare benefits.
As a Camp Lejeune veteran, you may also be eligible for disability payments. The VA offers disability compensation to veterans who served at Camp Lejeune, but the list of qualified conditions is short. Veterans must have received one of the following diagnoses to receive monthly disability payments:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
Disability compensation is calculated from 10% to 100%, with monthly payments ranging from $165.92 to over $4,000 for veterans with dependent children. If a veteran is declared 100% disabled, they can receive the highest monthly rates. This means an injury they received during military service is so severe that they can no longer work. Depending on the severity of your diagnosis, you may be eligible to receive a 100% disability rating from the VA.
If you’re unsure where to start, contact a Camp Lejeune attorney who can help guide you through applying for disability benefits and filing a Camp Lejeune claim.