Camp Lejeune Justice Act - How to check eligibility and file a claim

Updated: Jun 20



If passed, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 will permit military personnel and families to pursue financial compensation for illnesses and injuries thought to be caused by contaminated water at Camp Lejeune between 1952 and 1985. Should you file a claim?


If you served in the U.S. Marines or U.S. Navy between 1952 and 1985, spending time at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, there is a good chance that you, your spouse, and/or your children drank and bathed in water polluted with chemicals known to cause chronic illnesses and believed to be carcinogenic.


This blog post presents information for military personnel and families who believe they have been sickened by Camp Lejeune water contamination and would wish to pursue compensation under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, in the likely event it becomes law.


 

If you have any questions and would like legal help filing a claim, please contact us at Galindo Law at (888) 800-1808. Galindo Law does not charge any upfront or out-of-pocket fees.


 

FAQs include:

  1. What are military veterans experiencing because of Camp Lejeune drinking water?

  2. With what were marines poisoned by drinking Camp Lejeune water?

  3. How badly was the water contaminated at Camp Lejeune?

  4. What is the evidence for cancer relative to Camp Lejeune drinking water?

  5. How at risk is someone who has been exposed to Camp Lejeune drinking water?

  6. What cancers are associated with Camp Lejeune drinking water contaminants?

  7. What if a loved one has already died from an illness associated with Camp Lejeune?

  8. What is the status of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022?

  9. Are there resources for victims other than the Camp Lejeune Justice Act?

  10. How can military personnel get to see their medical records?

  11. What happens if and when the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 becomes Law?

  12. Should I seek damages if the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 is passed?

  13. Why should I hire a Camp Lejeune attorney?

  14. What does it cost to hire a Camp Lejeune attorney?


1. What have been the experiences of veterans sickened at Camp Lejeune?

Under current law, veterans sickened by Camp Lejeune drinking water cannot seek damages because of a long-standing rule that the government is not liable for injuries sustained by members of the armed services. Consider these examples:


  • An active-duty male stationed at Camp Lejeune from 1978-1979 described his situation in 2018. He remembered the base water having a “foul smell and nasty taste.” He reported numerous neuro issues, including “tremors, leg jerks, tingling and numbness, memory issues, multiple sclerosis, severe neuropathy in upper and lower limbs, optic neuritis, gait issues, severe fatigue, and more.”

  • He reported having no family history of any of these diseases, and he was “completely medically disabled at the age of 54.” He said he filed a claim with the VA in 2015 along with copious evidence, but he was nonetheless denied. Subsequently, in 2016, he filed a “Notice of Disagreement.” Two years later, and he still had heard nothing.

  • Perhaps even more troubling, this marine veteran said he asked for copies of his service/medical records in April 2016 and was told they could not be found. He said, “I get very hateful responses when I've tried to call and inquire about them (see source).”

  • An active-duty male stationed at Camp Lejeune from 1980-1984 said, “We always knew the water smelled funny. There was no other option but to drink the water. No bottled water at the time. We drank it, showered in it.” He added, “You drank a lot (because of) how hot the summers get there.”

  • He continued, “We also were ordered to dump spent oil and fuel directly in the ground. This was a common practice passed on for years. I just can’t believe the commander knew the water was contaminated and let his marines drink the poison.” This marine veteran began having intestinal problems in the late 1990s and was diagnosed with metastatic liver endocrine carcinoma in 2016 (see source).

  • The wife of an active duty marine stationed at Camp Lejeune from 1978-80 reported that two of her children were conceived there, and a third about six months after moving away from the base. She made this cringe-inducing revelation: “I drank tons of water while I was pregnant, trying to be so healthy.”

  • Tragically, all three children have multiple and significant medical problems. These include vision impairments, neuropathy, missing teeth, brain cancer, disintegrating spines, birth defects, cysts, polyps, autoimmune disorders, and more. Neither of her two daughters have been able to have children (see source).

  • A civilian woman explained that she lived on base as a child from 1964-1966 at Camp Lejeune with her father, mother, and brother. In 2010, her mother was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia and died within five months. Her brother was diagnosed with hairy cell leukemia in 1993.

  • Her father developed immune problems and suffered a massive heart attack while hospitalized for pneumonia. About herself, she reported chronic migraines, skin cancer, pain, and Parkinson's disease. She said she had filed claims for benefits several times, but she had been turned down (see source).


2. With what were marines poisoned by drinking Camp Lejeune water?


The predominant contaminants were volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as perchloroethylene (PCE), which is used for dry cleaning, and trichloroethylene (TCE), which is an industrial degreaser. (See source).


VOCs are implicated in human cancer, and they are known to cause eye, nose, and/or throat irritation. Other symptoms of exposure are headaches, loss of coordination, and nausea; as well as liver, kidney, and CNS damage.

Other contaminants found in the tainted wells were:


  • Benzene, which is found in crude oil. It is the main constituent in gasoline. It is also used to make detergents, drugs, dyes, lubricants, pesticides, plastics, resins, rubber, and synthetic fibers.

  • Vinyl chloride, which is used primarily to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC). It is a kind plastic employed to make packaging materials, pipes, and wire coatings.


3. How badly was the water contaminated at Camp Lejeune?


The pollution at Camp Lejeune is believed to be one of the worst cases of drinking-water contamination in U.S. history. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), approximately 900,000 military personnel were exposed to contaminated water, along with their on-base families, at levels 240 to 3400 times higher than applicable safety standards.


4. What is the evidence for cancer relative to Camp Lejeune drinking water?


People exposed to the chemicals in Camp Lejeune drinking water exhibit suspiciously high incidence rates across several cancers. Studies conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) have not definitively determined whether there is an increased mortality risk from cancers traceable to drinking Camp Lejeune contaminated water.


Nonetheless, the ATSDR studies have added knowledge regarding causality, thereby helping advance the needed research.


5. How at risk for cancer is someone exposed to Camp Lejeune drinking water?


The degree of danger varies according to peoples’ ages at the time they were exposed to the contaminants in Camp Lejeune water, and for how long. The greatest risks are to young children, pregnant women, and those who drank it (see source).


The odds of becoming ill depend on a number of factors. These include to which of the contaminants one was exposed, for how long, and since pollutant levels varied over time, during what years the exposure occurred.


Age at the time of exposure is also important (e.g. fetus, child, or adult), as is one’s genetic predisposition for cancer, lifetime exposures to other environmental or occupational hazards, and lifestyle issues such as tobacco use, alcohol use, sedentariness, and/or obesity.


6. What cancers are associated with Camp Lejeune drinking water contaminants?


The five cancers most often evinced by Camp Lejeune military personnel and families include but are not limited to:



7. What if a loved one has already died from an illness associated with Camp Lejeune?


The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 will allow people to seek compensation for the loss of their military loved ones who have died of a disease associated with Camp Lejeune contaminated water. They will also be able to file suit if their loved one suffered lifelong harmful effects, even if he or she did not die as a direct result of such exposure.


8. What is the status of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022?


The Act has been passed by the House. It must be passed by the Senate and signed by the President. The chances it will become law are reasonably good because it has bipartisan support. Consider:


  • On June 7, the Senate passed a cloture motion on the Act, which is a good sign. Cloture limits debate and fast-tracks the final approval process for the Act, which is now part of the Honoring Our Pact Act (HOPA).

  • The original bill was bipartisan, drafted on September 24, 2020, by five House Democrats and four Republicans, and introduced by Senator Tom Tillis of North Carolina, where Camp Lejeune is located.

  • Democrat Senator Patty Murray from Washington has spoken on the Senate floor in favor of the Act, as has Republican Senator Marco Rubio from Florida.


9. Are there resources for victims other than the Camp Lejeune Justice Act?


The VA has determined there is a “presumptive connection” between military service at Camp Lejeune and illnesses associated with the contaminated water there. Thereby, the VA is providing no-cost healthcare to service members who meet certain qualifications and were at Camp Lejeune from August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987.


However, in no way do these benefits provide military personnel and families who were poisoned by Camp Lejeune water with full and fair compensation for their suffering. This is a patent injustice that is worsened by the historical ban against suing the government for injuries sustained in the course of military duty.


The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, once passed by the Senate and signed by the President, would eliminate this prohibition, allowing military personnel and families injured by Camp Lejeune tainted drinking water to pursue a claim against the government.


10. How can military personnel get to see their medical records?


To the extent allowed by law, military personnel can obtain their medical records by contacting the National Personnel Records Center. This is the repository for personnel, health, and medical records of discharged and deceased veterans of all services (see source).


Your request must be signed, dated, and minimally include one’s complete name as it appears on the service records; service- or social-security number; service branch; and dates of service.


Mentioning the date and place of one’s birth is also advised, especially if the service number is lost. And if the request involves a record possibly involved in the 1973 Records Center fire, it is important to include the place of discharge, the last unit of assignment, and the place of entry into the service (to the extent known).


Send written requests to the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63132-5100. See the NPRC website for additional information.


11. What happens if and when the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 becomes Law?


If and when the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 becomes law, service personnel and families who were exposed to the drinking water at Camp Lejeune will be able to file a claim for damages against the US government, in the Eastern District of North Carolina.


Requirements to file a claim will include and likely not be limited to:


  • Documentable exposure to Camp Lejeune drinking water for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987

  • Expert medical testimony to explain to the court the connection between one’s illness and exposure to the contaminated water


As stated earlier, the Act will also allow people to seek compensation for the loss of military loved ones who have died of a disease associated with Lejeune contaminated water. They will also be able to file suit even if their military loved one did not die as a direct result of such exposure but instead suffered lifelong harmful effects due to it.


12. Should I seek damages if the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 is passed?


That is a deeply personal question. Nonetheless, a case could be made that one owes it to his or her fellow military personnel and families—past, present, and future—to hold the corps accountable for what was gross, if not criminal, negligence.


13. Why should I hire a Camp Lejeune attorney?


If and when the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 is passed, there will be significant litigation regarding who qualifies for tort compensation under its provisions, and the extent of damages to which they might be entitled.


Tort law is adversarial. The government officials from whom military personnel and families will be seeking compensation will be motivated to limit claims and the extent of compensation.


An experienced tort attorney can help affected military personnel and families understand their rights and win fair and complete compensation for their suffering. One should not go it alone.


14. What does it cost to hire a Camp Lejeune attorney?


Galindo Law does not charge any upfront or out-of-pocket fees. We are only paid a percentage of the settlement we are able to secure. So, working with Galindo Law incurs zero financial risk for military personnel and families who have been affected by Camp Lejeune's contaminated water.



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