The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Navy announced a new payout system for Camp Lejeune survivors on Wednesday. The plan is called the Elective Option, and it is designed to expedite payments to victims who have waited decades to seek justice for their toxic water injuries. The current Camp Lejeune settlement process has faced widespread criticism and Congressional scrutiny for delayed processing times. When the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) was enacted last year, it specified that the Navy had six months from the filing date to respond with a settlement offer or deny claims. The government didn’t settle any claims within the six months after the CLJA’s passing and has processed less than 20% of the more than 93,000 claims filed.
The holdup is more than an annoyance to Camp Lejeune claimants, many of whom have developed terminal illnesses due to the toxic water exposure they sustained at the North Carolina military base. Their Camp Lejeune claims and lawsuits being stuck in limbo means they may not receive compensation before dying from their health complications. A bipartisan group of representatives and senators sent a letter to the Navy and DOJ in May urging the government to settle cases quickly. In June, a Navy attorney claimed the delays were due to funding problems and staff shortages.
The elective option signals potential progress for the veterans who have been desperate for answers about when the government will pay out their claims. While not all Camp Lejeune victims qualify for this payout plan, it may speed up the process for those who do. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said the new option is a “critical step in bringing relief to qualifying claimants impacted by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.” The new system could also face some of the same problems that have impacted the original claims process, but some see it as a step in the right direction.
Camp Lejeune Payout Structure
The elective option doesn’t cover every illness linked to Camp Lejeune exposure. Instead, it includes nine presumptive conditions. How much a claimant will receive will vary depending on how long they were exposed to Camp Lejeune water and their condition. Tier 1 diagnoses are the conditions that have a proven link to Camp Lejeune exposure, per research from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). These illnesses are eligible for the highest payout amounts. They are listed below.
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Bladder cancer
If a claimant was exposed to Camp Lejeune water for between 30 and 364 days, they could receive a settlement offer of $150,000. For claimants who were at the base for between one and five years, the amount increases to $300,000. Lastly, veterans who spent more than five years at the military base are eligible for settlement offers of $450,000.
The tiered rankings aren’t dependent on the severity of the disease or how it’s affected someone’s life but on the amount of data linking an illness to Camp Lejeune. Tier 2 diagnoses are conditions possibly caused by Camp Lejeune water exposure. Tier 2 conditions are below.
- Multiple myeloma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Kidney disease (end-stage renal disease)
- Systemic sclerosis/systemic scleroderma
Claimants diagnosed with these conditions who were at Camp Lejeune for between 30 and 364 days are eligible to receive $100,000. The amount increases to $250,000 for those stationed at Camp Lejeune for between one and five years. Someone stationed at Camp Lejeune for over five years would be eligible for the highest settlement amount of $400,000. A family member filing a claim for someone who died due to Camp Lejeune health effects would qualify for an additional $100,000, making $550,000 the most someone can receive via the elective option.
How Does the Elective Option Affect Camp Lejeune Lawsuits?
Is the new payout plan better than filing a Camp Lejeune lawsuit against the federal government? The Department of the Navy and the DOJ did not give a timeline on payouts but believe it will streamline the process. The DOJ will investigate and make offers to plaintiffs eligible for settling under the elective option. The elective option may appeal to veterans and civilians who are critically ill and hope to see their cases resolved in their lifetime. But some Camp Lejeune verdicts are expected to reach over $1 million, so a claimant who opts for a payout may receive less than they would’ve in court.
Additionally, the elective option doesn’t cover multiple Camp Lejeune-related health conditions. These survivors must instead file a claim with the Department of the Navy and wait six months for a settlement offer or denial. They can sue if the government doesn’t respond or there isn’t a suitable offer. While you have the option of representing yourself, a Camp Lejeune lawyer can help you navigate the complexities of the claim process and determine the best way to seek compensation for your Camp Lejeune injuries.