Recently, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was signed into law. It is a landmark piece of bipartisan legislation that will finally allow veterans, civilian staff, and military families who worked, resided, and served at Camp Lejeune between August 1953 and December 1987 the chance to receive compensation for some of what was taken from them.
Those who serve in the United States military deserve our respect, admiration, and so much more. What they don’t deserve is what the United States Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and US Department of Defense (DOD) allowed to happen to more than a million United States Marines and their families, as well as civilian staff, at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987.
What Happened at Camp Lejeune?
Starting in 1953 and extending all the way through 1987, the men, women, and children at Camp Lejeune drank and bathed in toxic water. This resulted in tragedy upon tragedy unfolding throughout the decades. A nearby cemetery was dubbed “Baby Heaven” because of the hundreds of babies who died from being exposed to the contaminated water. Many of those babies were stillborn, meaning they died before they even had the opportunity to take a single breath.
In addition to the many children who suffered because of Camp Lejeune’s toxic water, several adults, including civilian contractors, Marines, and military family members developed serious illnesses, such as Parkinson’s disease and fatal cancers, after being exposed to the lethal chemicals in Camp Lejeune’s water.
What Contaminated the Water in Camp Lejeune?
A wide range of colorless and deadly chemicals that should never be consumed were found in Camp Lejeune’s water supply, including:
- Benzene – This substance is used to produce the chemicals found in plastics, nylon, and resins.
- Trichloroethylene (TCE) – This is a solvent that is used to clean munitions.
- Vinyl Chloride (VC) – This chemical is the result of PCE and TCE degrading in groundwater.
- Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) – This chemical is used as part of the dry-cleaning process. It was used to clean millions of uniforms at a dry-cleaning facility near Camp Lejeune.
Am I Eligible for Compensation Through the Camp Lejeune Act?
A person may be eligible for compensation through the Camp Lejeune Justice Act if they meet the following criteria:
- You or a family member was exposed to water at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987. This includes utero exposure.
- You or a family member was diagnosed with a serious illness, such as cancer, after living or working at Camp Lejeune. This includes diagnoses that can come months or even years after you lived or worked at the base.
- While you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune, or after you lived or worked at the base, your child died shortly after birth.
- While you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune, or after you lived or worked at the base, you or your child was diagnosed with a birth defect or major fetal malformation.
- You suffered infertility or miscarried a pregnancy while you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune, or shortly after your time living or working at the base.
What Types of Injuries Are Eligible for Compensation Through the Camp Lejeune Act?
Even if an injury or illness isn’t listed below, the toxic chemicals that people were exposed to at Camp Lejeune may have far-reaching effects. This means that exposure to those chemicals could cause health problems beyond what has been reported so far.
The following are a list of some of the injury and illness diagnoses that have resulted from exposure to Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water:
- Birth defects (including but not limited to oral cleft defects, choanal atresia, neural tube defects, eye defects, and low birth weight)
- Appendix cancer
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Ovarian cancer
- Lung cancer
- Hepatic steatosis
- Bile duct cancer
- Liver cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Soft tissue sarcoma
- Major fetal malformations
- Fetal death
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Female infertility
- Brain cancer
- Intestinal cancer
- Sinus cancer
- Renal toxicity
- Multiple Myeloma
- End-stage renal disease
- Breast cancer
- Gallbladder cancer
- Spinal cancer
- Parkinson’s disease
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Cardiac defects
- Cervical cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Aplastic anemia
- Colorectal cancer
- Any unlisted cancer
What If I Didn’t Develop Cancer or Other Problems Until Years Later?
Even if you didn’t develop cancer or other health problems until years after living or working at Camp Lejeune, you may still be eligible for compensation. An experienced Camp Lejeune water contamination lawyer can help you determine if you’re eligible.
The reason that you may still be eligible for compensation is because it can sometimes take years for the effects of toxic chemical exposure to manifest. Studies show that if you’re exposed to toxic chemicals for 30 days or more, you are at a higher risk of developing serious illnesses, like Parkinson’s disease and cancer, for the rest of your life.
Am I Eligible for Compensation Through the Camp Lejeune Act If I Already Receive Disability or Other VA Benefits?
Recovering compensation through the Camp Lejeune Justice Act should not impact your disability benefits or any other VA benefits you currently receive.
The Camp Lejeune Act provides a lump sum payment, and your eligibility shouldn’t be affected regardless of what other benefits you already receive.
Why Wasn’t the Camp Lejeune Water Problem Fixed Right Away?
The fight for justice for Camp Lejeune Marines, military families, and civilian staff has been ongoing for decades. The VA, DOD, and lawmakers all played a part in deceiving victims and covering up what was happening at Camp Lejeune for years. Plus, once the truth finally saw the light of day, lawmakers, the VA, and the DOD tried everything to avoid taking responsibility for what they’d done.
Many insist that the military knew about Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water years before it began closing contaminated wells in the late 1980s. There’s also the belief that even after the military began closing wells, some of the active wells were still being contaminated.
In addition, after the truth came out about Camp Lejeune’s toxic water, lawmakers in North Carolina changed the state’s 10-year statute of repose. The changes they made prevented Marines and their families who suffered because of Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water from being allowed to sue the government to seek justice.
For the VA’s part, even after it was revealed that Camp Lejeune’s water was making people sick, the VA refused to provide medical care to Camp Lejeune victims because they said there was insufficient evidence that the base’s water was causing their illnesses and injuries.
It wasn’t until 2017, when Congress enacted the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, that the tide began to turn in the favor of justice. This law made it easier for current and former VA insiders to do the right thing and help victims and their families hold the organization accountable for their part in the Camp Lejeune tragedy.
Even though the Camp Lejeune Justice Act is another step in the right direction, there’s still a long way to go on the road to making things right.
Do I Need a Lawyer’s Help to Receive Camp Lejeune Justice Act Compensation?
When it comes to the government, few things are ever simple. This is especially true as far as the Camp Lejeune Justice Act goes because it’s so new and there are still issues to smooth out, including questions that need to be answered and procedures that need to be tightened up.
When you hire an attorney, it will be their job to keep track of and make sense of all the changes to and ins and outs of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. They will handle the legal burden and ensure that you have all the documents, forms, and items you need, and that those forms, documents, and items are filed at the proper time and place.
In addition, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act allows lawsuits to be filed, if necessary, which absolutely requires the guidance of an experienced lawyer.
Our legal team at E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy LLP has decades of experience protecting clients rights and helping them bring those who harmed them to justice. We’ve taken on individuals, large corporations, and everything in between. We know what it takes to win, and as our case results prove, we know how to get the job done.
If you or a family member suffered or is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, cancer, birth defects, or any of the other conditions mentioned above after living or working at Camp Lejeune, we’re here for you and we can help you secure the compensation you deserve.
To learn more about E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy LLP, and why we’re the right choice to help you, read our clients’ reviews.
For more information about the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, or to discuss your situation with our experienced Camp Lejeune attorneys, give us a call at (518) 284-3183 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. We’re available 24/7 to assist you.