When the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) became law last year, it paved the way for those harmed by toxic water at the North Carolina military base to recover damages from the government. In the last few months, tens of thousands of Camp Lejeune victims and the family members of people who died have filed claims with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG). The CLJA outlined the protocol for how the JAG would process claims. After someone files a claim, the government has six months to accept, deny or resolve it differently. Camp Lejeune survivors can file federal Camp Lejeune lawsuits in the Eastern District of North Carolina if a resolution isn’t reached within six months.
President Joe Biden enacted the legislation on August 10, 2022, which means the six-month waiting period for victims who filed claims right after the bill became law has recently expired. Because of the provisions set by the CLJA, veterans and their loved ones who haven’t heard back about their claims can now sue. The JAG received 20,000 Camp Lejeune claims, but none have been fully settled. Over 100 lawsuits have been filed since February 10, and more are expected in the coming months.
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
Servicemembers and civilians working at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, unknowingly drank polluted water for over 30 years. Water wells at the military base were contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) linked to health problems, including Parkinson’s disease, miscarriage, and liver, kidney, and bladder cancers. Military officials reportedly knew about the toxic water years before the water supply was finally made safe again.
Camp Lejeune victims have struggled to receive fair compensation for their health conditions for decades. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers disability benefits for reservists, guardsmen, and veterans who served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days from August 1953 through December 1987 and didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge. These benefits include health care coverage but don’t account for the potential negligent behavior of the federal government. Military veterans cannot usually sue the federal government for injuries they incurred while on active duty and must file a VA claim instead.
Filing A Camp Lejeune Claim
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act was included in the Honoring our PACT Act of 2022, a bipartisan bill designed to help veterans exposed to toxic substances while serving in the military. The CLJA gives veterans until August 2024 to file claims, providing they spent 30 days at Camp Lejeune from August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987, and experienced health problems because of toxic exposure. To file a claim, applicants must submit documents proving their eligibility, including military housing records and medical documents. They must also share the health conditions they or their loved ones suffered after exposure to toxic water at Camp Lejeune.
Camp Lejeune applicants can choose to represent themselves pro se, which means they don’t have the help of a lawyer. However, a Camp Lejeune attorney makes the claims process easier to navigate. A lawyer can assist in gathering documents to prove eligibility and ensure there are no errors when filing an administrative claim. Additionally, you will need a Camp Lejeune lawyer if your claim isn’t resolved satisfactorily and you decide to sue the government.
Finding the right attorney for your Camp Lejeune case isn’t something to take lightly. Law firms have spent hundreds of millions of dollars advertising to potential Camp Lejeune clients, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the same level of care. Before choosing a lawyer, ask detailed questions. You should find out what percentage of your eventual settlement they take and whether they charge any fees upfront — many law firms work on a contingency basis and only get paid if you do. Ask about their trial experience. While the government will likely settle some Camp Lejeune claims within six months, many are already heading to federal court, and it’s essential to have an attorney who can competently represent you.
The two-year window to file Camp Lejeune claims is rapidly approaching, so finding an attorney and filing a claim as soon as possible is crucial. If the government doesn’t respond to your claim suitably, you may have the option to file a lawsuit.