Thousands of U.S. military servicemembers and their families will soon get some justice for the toxic water contamination they sustained decades ago at Camp LeJeune. But for others, there is no compensation in sight and no promise of when it might arrive.
This September, the U.S. Navy and Department of Justice announced a new Camp Lejeune Elective Option to expedite payouts to Camp Lejeune water contamination victims, whose exposure while serving their country resulted in severe permanent illness, fertility problems, cognitive issues, and more.
The 2022 Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) laid out specific parameters on when and how victims would receive compensation for their injuries.
Under the CLJA, the Navy was required to respond to all filed claims within six months of the filing date, either with a denial or settlement, before a Camp Lejeune lawsuit could be filed. The current Camp Lejeune claims processing system has endured widespread criticism, to which the Navy responded with claims of inadequate funding and staff.
Many Camp Lejeune toxic water victims are still struggling mentally, physically, and financially against their conditions, some of which developed more than 50 years ago. They’re racing against the clock and may not receive any compensation before succumbing to their illnesses.
Camp Lejeune Elective Option Criteria
The Camp Lejeune Elective Option (EO) is designed to streamline the process, offering a more expedited payout. However, not all victims are eligible. Only nine specific illnesses linked to Camp Lejeune qualify a claimant for the new program; those are separated into two tiers. The first tier of conditions has been proven a result of the water contamination, while the second tier is “possibly” a result. Tier 1 conditions are eligible for higher payouts than those in Tier 2.
- Liver cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Kidney disease (end-stage renal disease)
- Multiple myeloma
- Systemic sclerosis or scleroderma
Payout amounts are also based on how long claimants were exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune. Those with the longest tenure can receive up to $450,000, with an additional $100,000 for a deceased family member. Victims must also have been diagnosed before August 10, 2022.
Elective Option claimants only need to show that they have a qualifying illness, not prove its link to Camp Lejeune. For those who don’t qualify for the EO, they must prove their condition was likely related to Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water.
There are pros and cons to the Camp Lejeune Elective Option. Those eligible for the EO don’t have to accept it and can continue their original claim. In some cases, continuing with a traditional claim may be the best option.
Other Camp Lejeune Illness Claims
What happens to the Camp Lejeune victims who don’t qualify for the Elective Option?
Their only current recourse is the original claims process. They will not receive an Elective Option offer. If their claim is denied or unaddressed within six months, they can sue in federal court (a right that is waived for EO claimants).
Notably, miscarriage and female infertility, while covered under the CLJA, are ineligible, even though the ATSDR found sufficient evidence linking these “cardiac birth defects” to the toxic water.
At least one ATSDR study linked the Camp Lejeune exposure to conditions including low birth weight, fetal death, miscarriage, and ovarian cancer.
Thousands living or working at Camp Lejeune gave birth to infants who were stillborn or died shortly after birth. A section of the Jacksonville City Cemetery near the Marine base is reserved just for these babies, with grave dates ranging from the 1950s through the 1980s.
“The levels that were detected in the early ‘80s at Camp Lejeune were among the highest, if not the highest I’ve ever heard of,” epidemiologist Dr. Richard Clapp told Wral News, citing numerous studies on toxic water and stillbirth.
Most of the medical records needed to prove a definite link between individual cardiac birth defect cases and Camp Lejeune are now several decades old and incomplete or lost. Some experts say that miscarriages and infertility are too research-intensive to be expedited under the Elective Option.
Other conditions covered by the CLJA but not eligible for the EO include breast, esophageal, and lung cancer, hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease), and neurobehavioral effects such as dementia and depression.
If you or someone you love suffers from an illness associated with Camp Lejeune’s toxic water, you may file a claim or sue the government without an attorney. However, without a law firm experienced in Camp Lejeune toxic water claims, the process will be much more complicated and likely result in you receiving a lower settlement offer. Even if your condition is challenging to gather information on, a Camp Lejeune attorney will have the knowledge and resources to find evidence you wouldn’t on your own and recover well-deserved compensation.