Nearly 100,000 veterans have filed claims against the federal government for injuries sustained while serving at Camp Lejeune, a North Carolina military base with contaminated water problems for decades. Civilians and the family members of veterans who died from health complications have also filed complaints. These claims all allege the government acted negligently and failed to warn servicemembers that the base’s water wells were contaminated with dangerous chemicals that were harmful to human health.
Before 2022, veterans could only receive compensation for their Camp Lejeune-related injuries through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) was enacted last year, and it’s a landmark piece of legislation that allows veterans to sue the government for toxic exposure injuries. The window to file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit is August 2024 — less than a year away.
The government has six months to respond to your claim with a settlement offer or denial after you file. If you don’t get a response in that time or find the settlement offer unsatisfactory, you can move forward with filing a Camp Lejeune lawsuit. Delays have plagued the claims process, and the federal government has only processed a fraction of the 93,000 claims filed so far. On Wednesday, the government announced a plan to speed up Camp Lejeune payouts.
Eligible veterans may wonder what documents are needed to file a Camp Lejeune claim. A Camp Lejeune attorney can answer questions about the claim process, but knowing which documents are required is helpful.
Residence and Military Records
To be eligible for a lawsuit, you must have served at Camp Lejeune for more than 30 days between August 1953 and December 1987. You’ll be asked for residence records that prove you lived on the military base in affected housing. The contamination affected two treatment plants, Hadnot Point and Tarawa Terrace. You should plan to provide your DD214 (military service records that can be requested from the Department of Veterans Affairs) and proof of housing.
The most important part of a Camp Lejeune claim is medical records that show injuries associated with water contamination. Being stationed at the base during the permitted time isn’t enough to file a claim. You must also have developed an illness related to your exposure. Some of the diseases that have been linked to Camp Lejeune water contamination, per the VA:
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Adult leukemia
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Aplastic anemia
- Multiple myeloma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Breast cancer
- Lung cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Renal toxicity
- Hepatic steatosis
- Infertility and miscarriage
Any documents related to your diagnosis can be helpful. Copies of test results and records pertaining to treatments, medication, and surgeries can all support your case. If you’ve paid out of pocket for medical treatment, hospital and doctor’s bills will also be beneficial.
The VA has historically compensated veterans for their medical expenses but not for the other losses they may have suffered. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act allows veterans to sue for effects like pain and suffering, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, and emotional distress. You’ll need to prove these losses to receive damages. Mental health treatment notes and evidence of your reduced wages are two record types that may prove essential. Every case is different, and your Camp Lejeune lawyer will work with you to determine which supporting documents you need.
Does the Camp Lejeune Justice Act Affect VA and Disability Benefits?
You’ll want to provide evidence of any VA and disability benefits you’ve received when filing a Camp Lejeune claim. Still, it’s important to note that a claim will not affect these benefits or your eligibility for VA healthcare. While a claim won’t affect your existing VA payments, it can impact the money you receive from a lawsuit. What you receive from a Camp Lejeune lawsuit verdict in court will be offset by the amount of any related disability award if you receive VA benefits related to Camp Lejeune exposure. This won’t apply if you settle instead of going to court.
Don’t let this stop you from filing a claim. It’s estimated to cost the government $6.7 billion to settle all expected Camp Lejeune claims, and individual settlement amounts could reach over $1 million. Hiring a trusted Camp Lejeune lawyer will help you determine the records you need and the best way forward. If an attorney requires payment upfront, it could be a scam. Consider Camp Lejeune attorney reviews and ask questions about the law firm’s experience with similar cases, how many plaintiffs they represent, and whether they offer free consultations. Filing a Camp Lejeune claim before the deadline is essential, so you should plan to move quickly.