President Biden signed legislation on August 10th, 2022 that includes the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which empowers veterans and their on-base families to file civil lawsuits against the government for Camp Lejeune health issues that may have been caused by the camp’s polluted water.
For people based at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days anytime between August 1953 and December 1987, while serving in (or working for) the U.S. Marines or Navy, there is a good chance that they, their spouses, and/or their children drank and bathed in water contaminated with hazardous substances known to cause chronic illnesses and believed to be carcinogenic.
This blog post presents information for military personnel and families who believe that they (or a deceased loved one) have been sickened by Camp Lejeune water contamination and wish to file a claim under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, which is now law. Q&As include:
Why is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act important?
What were the contaminants in Camp Lejeune drinking water?
How bad was the water contamination at Camp Lejeune?
Is Camp Lejeune drinking water proven to cause cancer?
What is the cancer risk for someone exposed to Camp Lejeune drinking water?
What specific cancers are associated with Camp Lejeune drinking water?
Are there any tests to determine if one has been affected by Camp Lejeune contaminants?
What is meant by “presumptive conditions?”
What are the presumptive conditions regarding Camp Lejeune drinking water?
What is required to file a claim under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022?
Are Camp Lejeune veterans and their family members covered for healthcare?
What if a loved one has already died from an illness associated with Camp Lejeune?
How can military personnel inspect their own medical records?
Why should you hire a Camp Lejeune attorney?
What does it cost to hire a Camp Lejeune attorney?
1. Why is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act important?
Victims of water contamination at Camp Lejeune have been frustrated in their attempts to receive just compensation for decades. This is because previous lawsuits filed against the government were summarily dismissed for three reasons:
North Carolina’s 10-year statute of repose sets a strict 10-year timeline for an injured party to file a civil claim.
The Feres doctrine proscribes any civil suit by service members against the U.S. government for injuries related to military service.
Qualified immunity shields the U.S. government from lawsuits in cases where negligence is not clearly established
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act overrules these exceptions to allow lawsuits to move forward. Veterans, their family members, and civilians who lived or worked at the camp during the designated period are now empowered to file suits.
2. What were the contaminants in Camp Lejeune drinking water?
The major contaminants in Camp Lejeune water 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 known to cause eye, nose, and/or throat irritation; and they are implicated in human cancer. Other symptoms of VOC exposure are:
Loss of coordination
Liver and kidney failure
Other contaminants found in the tainted Camp Lejeune wells were:
Benzene. This chemical is a component of crude oil and the main constituent in gasoline. It is also used in making detergents, drugs, dyes, lubricants, pesticides, plastics, resins, rubber, and synthetic fibers.
Vinyl chloride. This chemical is used primarily to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is a kind of plastic employed to make packaging materials, pipes, and wire coatings.
3. How bad was the water contamination at Camp Lejeune?
Approximately 900,000 military personnel were exposed to contaminated water according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), as were their on-base families, at levels 240 to 3400 times higher than applicable safety standards. In sum, the pollution at Camp Lejeune is considered to be one of the worst cases of drinking water contamination in U.S. history. (“Camp Lejeune Justice Act - How to check eligibility and file a claim”)
4. Is Camp Lejeune drinking water proven to cause cancer?
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. But people exposed to the substances in Camp Lejeune drinking water exhibit suspiciously high incidence rates across several cancers. And the ATSDR studies have added knowledge regarding causality, thereby helping advance the needed research. (“Camp Lejeune Justice Act - How to check eligibility and file a claim”)
5. What is the cancer risk for someone exposed to Camp Lejeune drinking water?
The degree of cancer risk for people exposed to Camp Lejeune drinking water varies according to their ages at the time of exposure, for how long that exposure continued, to which of the contaminants the person was exposed, and since pollutant levels varied over time, during what years the person was at Camp Lejeune.
Young children, pregnant women, and those who actually drank the water bear the greatest risk (see source). Age at the time of exposure is also important (e.g. fetus, child, or adult).
Other factors include 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.
The medications that one has taken over time that are known or alleged to cause cancer (see can be another confounding factor (source). These include:
Fluoxetine and Paroxetine—synthetic compounds that inhibit the brain’s serotonin uptake, used to treat depression
Zantac—an H2 blocker used to treat heartburn (pyrosis) and other symptoms of excessive stomach acid
Proton Pump Inhibitors—now used more so than H2 blockers to reduce stomach acid
Losartan and Valsartan—angiotensin receptor blockers used to control high blood pressure
6. What specific cancers are associated with Camp Lejeune drinking water?
Camp Lejeune military personnel and families typically report one of five cancer types. These are:
Adult leukemia, wherein one’s bone marrow makes a large number of abnormal blood cells
Aplastic anemia, wherein one’s body stops producing enough new blood cells as a result of bone marrow damage
Multiple myeloma, wherein cancerous plasma cells accumulate in one’s bone marrow and crowd out healthy blood cells
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, wherein one’s white blood cells grow abnormally and create tumors throughout the body
7. Are there any tests to determine if one has been affected by Camp Lejeune contaminants?
Organic compounds leave the body within a week after the last exposure, which was many years ago at Camp Lejeune. Thus, there are no medically recommended tests to measure exactly the amount or the effect of exposure to the Camp Lejeune water pollutants. (“Camp Lejeune Water Contamination - Galindo Law”) Exposed individuals can only monitor their health with regular medical checkups and conferring with their physician.
8. What is meant by “presumptive conditions?”
Certain diseases are called “presumptive conditions” because if a person contracts one of them who belongs to a certain group (e.g. a serviceperson stationed at Camp Lejeune for more than 30 days), then the Veterans Administration automatically presumes that he or she contracted the disease as a consequence of military service.
9. What are the presumptive conditions regarding Camp Lejeune drinking water?
Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
10. What is required to file a claim under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 empowers service personnel and families exposed to the drinking water at Camp Lejeune to file a claim for damages against the US government, in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Requirements to file a claim minimally include:
Exposure to Camp Lejeune drinking water for at least 30 cumulative days between August 1953 and December 1987 inclusive that is documentable.
An explanation to the court about the connection between one’s illness and his or her exposure to the contaminated water, as provided by expert testimony
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 also enables people to seek compensation for the loss of military loved ones who have died of a disease associated with Lejeune contaminated water. As well, they are entitled 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. (See 13)
11. Are Camp Lejeune veterans and their family members covered for healthcare?
Veterans and their family members who served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 cumulative days from August 1953 through December 1987 inclusive are eligible to be reimbursed for out-of-pocket healthcare costs related to any of the15 conditions listed below. Your Camp Lejeune attorney can help you obtain this benefit. The15 conditions are:
12. How does a family member claim benefits related to Camp Lejeune water?
To claim these benefits, you must provide documentation that proves:
Your relationship to the veteran who served on active duty for at least 30 days at Camp Lejeune (e.g., probate/estate documents, marriage license, birth certificate, adoption papers) (“Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Health Issues | Veterans Affairs”)
That you lived at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1953 through December 1987 inclusive (e.g., utility bills, base housing records, military orders, or tax forms)
That you have one of the 15 conditions listed above (see 10), including the date your illness was diagnosed
That you are being treated (or have been) for this illness
If you lived in Camp Lejeune for at least 30 cumulative days between January 1957 and December 1987 , the Veterans Administration will reimburse you for care received on or after August 6, 2012 and up to two years before the date of your application.
If you lived in Camp Lejeune between August 1953 and December 1956 inclusive, the Veterans Administration will reimburse you for care received on or after December 16, 2014, and up to 2 years before the date you apply for benefits.[KW1]
As you can see, the requirements are manifold, which is another reason why you would do well to seek the help of a Camp Lejeune lawyer.
13. What if a loved one has already died from an illness associated with Camp Lejeune?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 empowers people to seek compensation for the loss of a military loved one who died of a disease associated with the camp’s contaminated water. They will also be entitled to file a claim if their loved one did not die as a direct result of such exposure, but suffered lifelong harmful effects because of it. This is a complicated sort of claim, with which your Camp Lejeune attorney can provide help and guidance.
14. How can military personnel inspect their own medical records?
The National Personnel Records Center is the repository for personnel, health, and medical records of discharged and deceased veterans of all services (see source).
To the extent allowed by law, military personnel can obtain their medical records by sending a written request to Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63132-5100.
The request must be signed, dated, and minimally include the complete name of the serviceperson as it appears on his or her records; service- or social-security number; service branch; and dates of service.
Including the date and place of the serviceperson’s birth is also advised, especially if his or her service number is lost. It is also important to include the place of discharge, the last unit of assignment, and the place of entry into the service (to the extent known) if the request involves a record possibly involved in the 1973 Records Center fire.
See the NPRC website for additional information.
15. Why should you hire a Camp Lejeune attorney?
Filing a claim with the Veterans Administration is not a straightforward process. (For evidence, see Q&A #12.) And now that the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 has been passed into law, there will be substantial 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 (i.e. the defendants) will be motivated to limit claims and compensation to military personnel and families seeking relief, just as they have in the past. Consider, according to CBS News, up until now (i.e., the passage of the Act), the VA has approved only 17 percent of claims regarding Camp Lejeune water contamination.
One should not go it alone. A Camp Lejeune attorney can help affected military personnel and families understand their rights and win fair and complete compensation for their suffering.
16. 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 contaminated water.
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