What Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Victims Need to Know
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Victims: What You Need to Know
Over the course of over four decades, contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune, a U.S. Marine Corps Base in North Carolina, hundreds of thousands of servicemembers and their families were put at risk for cancer and other serious illnesses. Between 1953 and 1987, two of the eight water wells at Camp Lejeune were contaminated with harmful chemicals known to cause cancer and other serious illnesses. These wells supplied drinking and bathing water to pre-school and school children, military families, patients in the hospital and servicemembers and civilians in their place of employment. Fifteen illnesses and medical conditions, including several cancers, reproductive problems, birth defects, and Parkinson’s disease have been linked to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune.
In 2012, access to medical care for Camp Lejeune contaminated water illnesses was granted to all Veterans for qualifying medical conditions. However, until recently, the victims of this toxic exposure were barred from filing a claim.
The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, which encompasses the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, was signed by President Biden on August 10, 2022. The Act gives people harmed by contaminated Camp Lejeune water the right to file a claim against the U.S. Government. If you are already receiving medical or other benefits from the Veterans’ Administration for a Camp Lejeune water-related illness, you still qualify to file a claim under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act.
First, a little background about Camp Lejeune.
What happened at Camp Lejeune?
The VA reports that between 1953 and 1987, veterans and their families serving at Camp Lejeune were exposed to a variety of toxins in the water supply, including trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene, vinyl chloride, and other dangerous compounds.
The Marine Corps discovered these compounds in 1982, coming from two on-base water treatment plants: Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry noted the contamination came from waste disposal from an off-base dry cleaning firm, leaking underground storage tanks, and waste disposal sites.
This exposure resulted in serious and deadly health conditions, including:
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Renal toxicity
Back in 2017, the government agreed to pay out about $2.2 billion in disability benefits to affected servicemembers. However, the list of covered conditions was minimal and, with the unprecedented number of Camp Lejeune victims, this was simply not enough. On top of that, the North Carolina statute of repose of 10 years did not allow victims to even file a lawsuit.
However, the passage of the PACT Act, which includes the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, will change this.
What is the PACT Act?
The Honoring Our PACT Act became law on August 10, 2022. Per the CT Mirror:
The massive measure, known as the PACT Act, will cost more than $300 billion over the next decade, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. It adds 23 illnesses, including certain cancers and respiratory and lung diseases, for the VA to presume are connected to toxin exposure in the military. As a result, veterans with these issues will no longer have to prove a service connection to these illnesses.
Thomas J. Saadi, state Veterans Affairs commissioner, encouraged veterans to apply even if they were unsuccessful in the past. “Don’t take a denial of 10 or 20 years ago to mean that you’re going to be denied today,” he said. “No veteran should feel they are not worthy of a benefit they are eligible for,” he added. [emphasis ours]
The PACT Act includes the terms of the 2022 Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which reads in part:
An individual, including a veteran (as defined in section 101 of title 38, United States Code), or the legal representative of such an individual, who resided, worked, or was otherwise exposed (including in utero exposure) for not less than 30 days during the period beginning on August 1, 1953, and ending on December 31, 1987, to water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, that was supplied by, or on behalf of, the United States may bring an action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to obtain appropriate relief for harm that was caused by exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune.
The most important points of the Act include:
- Streamlining the compensation and disability process
- Opening it up to non-service members, like family, civilian workers, and contractors who lived at Camp Lejeune
- Including victims who suffered injuries in utero
How do I file a claim for Camp Lejeune water contamination?
Under the Act, victims of Camp Lejeune will have just two years from the date of enactment of the Act to file their injury claims, so it is important to act quickly to start your case. The attorneys at Phelan Petty are currently accepting Camp Lejeune water contamination claims on behalf of injured veterans, servicemembers, their families, and civilian employees. To be eligible, victims must have been stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune between 1953 to 1987 for a total of at least 30 days, consecutive or non-consecutive.
Our personal injury attorneys can help you prepare your claim and work to gather the appropriate documents, which can include:
- Proof of military service and/or residency at Camp Lejeune
- Date of discovery of your condition or injury
- Medical records and treatment relating to your condition
- All medical expenses related to your condition
- All out-of-pocket expenses related to your condition
The Richmond attorneys at Phelan Petty understand that you put your life on the line to serve your country, and you deserve compensation for your injuries and suffering. We are partnering with a North Carolina law firm who stands ready to assist our clients if their cases must be filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina. To learn more about the Camp Lejeune Justice and PACT Act, and if you or a member of your family are eligible for financial compensation, get in touch with us today. We want to help. Call us at 804-518-3967 or use our contact form to make an appointment.
Michael Phelan is a Virginia trial attorney who practices with a special focus on traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases, pharmaceutical and medical device claims, product liability cases, and truck accidents. Michael’s peers have consistently recognized him for his excellence as a trial lawyer, and his clients have praised him for his commitment to deep research, his outstanding communication skills, and his sincerity and dedication.