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Who Is Eligible to File a Camp Lejeune Claim?

The deadline for filing a claim under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) is fast approaching. 

Almost two years ago, President Joe Biden signed the CLJA into law, and the legislation opened a legal window for victims of Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water to receive financial compensation directly from the federal government.

male lawyer writing at his desk with a wooden gavel in the forefront

Before filing a Camp Lejeune lawsuit, a claim must first be filed with the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy’s Tort Claims Unit. If the Camp Lejeune claim is denied or a settlement is not reached, the claimant can move forward with filing a civil lawsuit. Camp Lejeune lawsuits are being handled through the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. 

All Camp Lejeune claims must be filed with the Department of Navy, by August 10, 2024.

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination and the Illnesses It Caused

Beginning in 1953, toxins, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, vinyl chloride, and benzene, began infiltrating two water treatment plants at Camp Lejeune. Decades would pass before those exposed to the contamination became aware of the issue. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, as many as one million people might have been exposed to Camp Lejeune’s contaminated drinking water.

Multiple illnesses have been linked to the Camp Lejeune water contamination, including bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, leukemia, Parkinson’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, aplastic anemia as well as cancers of the lung, breast, larynx, thyroid and soft tissues. Along with causing debilitating harm to those who were exposed directly, the toxic water also caused health problems to babies whose mothers were exposed while pregnant.

How to File a Camp Lejeune Claim

Who is eligible: The CLJA makes it possible for all servicemembers, their families and civilians who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune from August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 for 30 or more days and have developed certain health conditions eligible to file a Camp Lejeune claim. 

Filing online: To help streamline the claims process, the Department of the Navy launched a new Camp Lejeune claims management portal that allows claimants not represented by an attorney as well as individuals who are working with an attorney to submit new claims, track the status of a claim, securely upload supporting documents, and communicate with the Camp Lejeune Claims Unit personnel.

Filing by U.S. Mail: Individuals can still file a claim through the U.S. Postal Service, however, it will require certification by the claimant or attorney. Once the mailed claim is received and mitigated through the portal, an email with login information will be sent. 

Filing a claim for others, including loved ones who have died: Because the contamination of the water supply at Camp Lejeune began more than fifty years ago, many victims have already died. A claim can be filed on the behalf of a deceased victim. To do this, a personal representative of the estate must be appointed, and that individual will need to collect the necessary documents including medical records and the person’s death record (to show that the deceased suffered an illness due to the water at Camp LeJeune), and either the military records or employment information showing the time spent at the base.

Filing a claim for an individual who needs assistance: There are times when a victim is unable to file a claim on their own and needs help, and a legally authorized representative is allowed to file a claim on their behalf. However, along with gathering all necessary documents for the victim, the Department of the Navy requires legal proof from the person filing the claim, to show they have the legal authority to act on behalf of the victim.

The Elective Option: Last year, the U.S. Navy and Department of Justice created a way for claimants to possibly receive their payments faster –  through the Camp Lejeune Elective Option (EO). With the EO, a settlement is offered to the claimant once it is determined they have one of nine presumptive health conditions or illnesses categorized into tiers of possible payouts. The payout an individual receives depends on how long they were exposed to the toxic water. The settlements could be up to approximately $450,000.

To be offered a Camp Lejeune Elective Option settlement, the victim must first file a Camp Lejeune claim. If they qualify, they will be contacted with a settlement offer. At the same time, if the claimant agrees to the settlement, they forfeit their right to file any lawsuit against the government over the Camp Lejeune water contamination.

Benefits of Hiring a Camp Lejeune Attorney

Whether an individual is concerned about their claim or a family member’s claim, or they are serving as a representative for someone who can not file a claim for themselves, understanding the legal process by consulting a Camp Lejeune attorney is critical.

It is advisable to find an attorney with experience in Camp Lejeune cases, especially now as the claims deadline approaches. The process can be difficult and issues may arise while the claimant is attempting to file a claim. There may also be questions a lawyer can provide valuable answers to. For example, whether or not the claimant is delegated the correct financial compensation, or if they should accept a settlement offer and forfeit their right to file a lawsuit.

An experienced Camp Lejeune attorney can bring their expertise to the table, weighing in on all the issues while ensuring the claimant and their family are given what they deserve.

Remember, anyone who believes they qualify for compensation under the CLJA must submit a claim by the August 10th deadline.