Those in the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune from 1950 to the mid-1980s may have a problem. The Marine Corps found in 1982 that two water treatment plants in the North Carolina camp contained volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Studies have shown a correlation between exposure to toxic chemicals during military service and developing specific diseases.
The ATSDR, or Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, analyzed the data to reconstruct what happened. Apparently, an off-base dry cleaning firm introduced PCE (perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene) to the Tarawa Terrace water treatment plant.
The contamination was due to their waste disposal practices. The ASTDR estimated that PCE concentrations exceeded the safety limits from November 1957 to February 1987.
Meanwhile, the data showed contamination of the Hadnot Point water treatment plant with TCE (trichloroethylene). The TCE leaked from underground storage tanks, industrial area spills, and waste disposal sites.
The Department of Veteran Affairs is issuing compensation and healthcare to Camp Lejeune water contamination victims. To know whether you or a family member qualify for disability benefits, have a free case evaluation from The Personal Injury Center.
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Things You Need To Know About the Camp Lejeune Lawsuit
President Biden signed into law the Honoring Our PACT Act (Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics) on August 10, 2022. The president’s call on Congress to comprehensively address toxic exposures during military service triggered the Act’s passage.
Title 38 of the US Code had previously codified the benefits for veterans. However, Section 1787 explicitly addresses the health care of family members of veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Additionally, the House introduced a bill explicitly addressing the Camp Lejeune situation with the Camp Lejeune Justice Act on March 26, 2021. The PACT Act expands the benefits for victims of water contamination and other toxic exposures and the right to recover damages.
It has been the most significant expansion of benefits and services for toxic-exposed veterans in more than 30 years. The PACT Act ensures the federal government will provide healthcare and benefits to well-deserving veterans, their families, and caregivers. In addition, it triggers the following changes:
- Expand accessibility to VA health care services for veterans exposed to toxic substances during their military service
- Codify the new process of the VA for evaluating and determining the presumption of exposure and service connection for various chronic conditions
- Not require some veterans or their survivors to prove service connection if they have one of 23 specified conditions
- Require VA to conduct studies of veterans who served in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War and 9/11
- Require that veterans under the VA health care undergo regular screening for toxic exposure-related concerns
- Deliver resources to VA to ensure it can deliver timely access to services and benefits for all veterans eligible
The enactment of the PACT Act ushers in a new era for veterans who served in Camp Lejeune. For three decades, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contaminated the drinking water of people residing and working at Camp Lejeune. It includes industrial solvents, benzene, and other toxins that pollute the camp’s water supply.
With the new law, individuals with one of the 15 medical conditions presumed to be related to exposure can receive free healthcare. Presumptive conditions are health situations suspected of having been caused by military service.
Furthermore, the U.S. government added 20 more presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures. Diseases beyond those identified by the Veterans Affairs should be proven service-related to get a VA disability rating.
For Camp Lejeune water contamination claims, service members can get disability benefits if they have the following presumptive conditions:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
Under the Camp Lejeune health care law, veterans without presumptive conditions can still receive all their health care from VA. They should have served on active duty for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987. Qualifying health conditions include:
- Esophageal cancer
- Breast cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Renal toxicity
- Female infertility
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Lung cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Hepatic Steatosis
- Neurobehavioral effects
Benefits for Veteran family members
Meanwhile, family members of veterans who resided in Camp Lejeune within the qualifying period can also receive compensation. VA will reimburse out-of-pocket medical expenses related to the 15 listed conditions. You should note that the VA can only cover leftover costs from other health plans.
Survivors of deceased veterans are also eligible for compensation and other benefits from the VA based on the PACT Act:
- A monthly VA dependency and indemnity compensation payment (VA DIC)
- A one-time accrued benefit payment
- Healthcare through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs
- A burial allowance for the veteran’s funeral costs
Common Health Problems From Water Contamination
In Camp Lejeune, a dry cleaning firm polluted the Tarawa Terrace Treatment Plant with industrial solvents. It ultimately affected thousands of military personnel and their family members who resided in the military base.
PCE was the primary contaminant found in the Tarawa Terrace Treatment Plant. Spills and improper disposal practices of the dry cleaning firm polluted the camp’s water supply. Another factor that affected its water facilities is an on-base source of toxic chemicals.
On the other hand, multiple sources of contaminants compromised the Hadnot Point water supply. TCE was its primary contaminant, but on-base spills, leaks from underground storage tanks, and many other sources introduced other toxins.
Scientific and medical evidence has shown a relationship between exposure to contaminants and the subsequent development of health problems. Ingestion of polluted drinking water can lead to irreversible medical conditions. It includes different types of cancer like liver cancer, bladder cancer, lung cancer, and breast cancer.
Volatile organic compounds found in Camp Lejeune’s water supply include the following:
- Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a solvent used in Camp Lejeune to clean metal parts
- Perchloroethylene (PCE) is a solvent used in dry cleaning
- Benzene present in fuel leaked from tanks in the camp
- Vinyl Chloride used in fuel systems from leaking storage tanks in the camp
The listed toxic chemicals are just four out of more than 400 found in Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water supply.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has created a registry for those exposed to the water supply at Camp Lejeune. Over 19,000 people registered as of June 2019.
Other health conditions that may develop from the ingestion of contaminated water include the following:
Hepatic steatosis is most commonly known as fatty liver disease. It is a condition that may lead to cancer and other non-cancerous liver diseases. It occurs when your liver begins storing too much fat. Many factors can cause this condition, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome.
Vinyl chloride, found in Camp Lejeune’s water supply, is a known cause of hepatic steatosis. If left unaddressed, hepatic steatosis can develop into worse health conditions like:
- Fat accumulation (steatosis)
- Inflammation and swelling
- Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, chronic inflammation
- Cell damage
- Fibrosis (scar tissue formation)
- Cirrhosis (extensive scarring)
- Hepatocellular carcinoma
Not all cases of hepatic steatosis develop to these conditions. However, vinyl chloride contamination increases the risk of developing cirrhosis, which can also lead to fatal hepatocellular carcinoma or angiosarcoma. There is no known treatment for hepatic steatosis. However, better lifestyle choices can drastically decrease disease progression.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found an association between congenital disabilities and Camp Lejeune contaminated water. In 2016, the ATSDR surveyed mothers who lived on base during pregnancy and those who had children between 1968 and 1985. It revealed that 8,000 to 10,000 Camp Lejeune babies had congenital disabilities.
The study reported 106 cases: 35 neural tube defects (NTDs), 42 oral clefts, and 29 hematopoietic cancers. ATSDR also sought help from health providers and was able to confirm more reported cases. It includes 15 NTDs, 24 oral clefts, and 13 cancers. All survey results focused on diagnoses before 20 years of age.
The study revealed direct associations between TCE and neural tube defects in children. During the first trimester of pregnancy, increasing exposure to TCE multiplied the risk of NTD.
TCE is a known cause of developing nervous system, liver, and kidney issues. Exposure can lead to spina bifida, anencephaly, and other severe health conditions.
Meanwhile, PCE can damage the kidney, liver, and heart. It is associated with anencephaly and other NTDs. Similarly, benzene can damage blood cells and can lead to the development of leukemia.
Vinyl chloride can lead to liver, kidney, and nervous system deterioration. It is also related to anencephaly and other NTDs.
Studies suggest prolonged exposure to environmental toxins can elevate the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Environmental factors like solvents and defoliants can play a role in neurological disorders.
Parkinson’s disease affects the nervous system, restricting movement as it progresses. While it lacks a clear cause, researchers believe that environmental exposure to trichloroethylene is one factor.
In the case of Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps found an unsafe amount of TCE in its water treatment plants. You can find TCE in many industrial settings, such as metal degreasing, dry cleaning, paint thinners, and detergents. Similarly, a potent defoliant used extensively during the Vietnam War called Agent Orange was associated with the development of Parkinson’s.
TCE has been banned in Europe but remains legal in the US. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed banning many TCE uses. Still, the Trump administration allowed the chemical to stay in the market.
Further, the EPA’s legal limit for TCE in drinking water is five parts per billion, set in 1987. However, recent studies suggest it could be harmful at even a much lower concentration rate.
Exposure to TCE does not just happen through water contamination. It is highly volatile, so you can inhale it while washing dishes, bathing, and other household activities involving water. TCE can also vaporize from groundwater or contaminated soil, leaking into buildings through cracks in foundations.
Water contaminants do not only cause congenital disabilities. It also produces reproductive health concerns. Ingesting contaminated water increases the chances of experiencing infertility or interferes with the possibility of a healthy pregnancy.
For example, a common water contaminant called perchlorate affects the maternal thyroid. Prolonged exposure to the chemical compound affects fetal brain development. The EPA determined that perchlorate did not pose a significant danger to the public and decided not to regulate it. However, it plans to continue studying it under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The discovery of contaminated water in Camp Lejeune prompted various scientific and health investigations. In 2009, the National Research Council (NRC) also established a “Committee on Contaminated Drinking Water at Camp Lejeune.” It pursued a comprehensive study of the incident and found that exposure to VOCs was associated with cancer development.
More specifically, contaminants found in Camp Lejeune elevated kidney cancer-specific mortality. The NRC also found a dose-response relationship between TCE and benzene with Hodgkin’s lymphoma-specific mortality.
The study’s authors also identified a list of cancers that elevated the disease-specific mortality in Camp Lejeune. The list includes the following diseases and attendant symptoms:
- Kidney cancer causes pain, tiredness, fever, and unexplained weight loss.
- Liver cancer can lead to abdominal pain, swelling, weakness, etc.
- Esophageal cancer may cause pain and difficulty in swallowing.
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma causes lymph nodes to swell, fever, tiredness, and weight loss.
- Multiple myeloma leads to confusion, mental fogginess, weakness or numbness in the limbs, fatigue, or nausea.
- Leukemia can cause exhaustion, fatigue, fever, bleeding, or easy bruising.
- Cervical cancer can lead to bleeding or unusual discharge from the vagina.
How To File a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit
A formal complaint filed in federal court can lead to successful Camp Lejeune Water Contamination claims. Veterans, their loved ones, or their survivors can file a claim for disability benefits at the VA. Additionally, a person in utero while their mother was in Camp Lejeune for the relevant period is eligible to file a claim.
Claimants must file for disability compensation claims and provide supporting documents to receive benefits from the Veterans Affairs Office. Relevant papers include records of your assignment at Camp Lejeune and medical records relating to at least one of the presumptive conditions.
A more thorough explanation of the process is listed below.
Show proof of Camp Lejeune assignment
The most common document that proves your assignment at Camp Lejeune is a military record of yourself, your spouse, or your children. Other proofs of residence include photographs or old letters from addresses within the camp.
Most importantly, the record must prove you served at Camp Lejeune or the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River. MCAS New River is part of the military bases included in Camp Lejeune.
The record must show you have been on active duty for at least 30 days between August 1953 and December 1987. The VA also accepts veterans from the National Guard or Reserves.
Family members who wish to claim disability compensation must show a document that proves their relationship to the veteran. It may be a marriage license, birth certificate, or adoption paper.
They must also provide proof of residence for the relevant period and length of time. The VA accepts utility bills, base housing records, military orders, and tax forms.
Present evidence of qualifying illness
Claimants must also prove that they suffer from one or more of the eight illnesses on the presumptive conditions list. Veterans can submit relevant supporting documents like a doctor’s report or medical test results to the VA. The illnesses reported must show a direct causal relationship with the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
Meanwhile, family members must show that they suffer at least one of the 15 conditions identified by the VA. Records must show the diagnosis date and whether the illness is currently being treated or has been treated. In addition, they need to provide evidence that they have paid healthcare expenses for their claimed condition.
The VA will reimburse their expenses if they sought healthcare or lived in camp between January 1, 1957, and December 31, 1987. Reimbursable costs are for those received on or after August 6, 2012, and up to two years before they apply for benefits.
Claimants can also reimburse healthcare expenses received between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1956. The VA will shoulder costs on or after December 16, 2014, and up to two years before they apply for benefits.
The VA also suggests that family members provide a Camp Lejeune Family Member Program Treating Physician Report. It offers vital information for evaluating a claimant’s eligibility for benefits.
File a claim
When the victim establishes their eligibility for filing, a veteran or their family member can fill out the claim form. It requires claimants to state their identity and explain how they were exposed to the contaminated water in the camp. The document also asks for information about their contracted illness due to toxic exposure and the damages sustained.
Once accomplished, they can file a claim in three ways:
- File the claim via the Veterans Affairs Office
- Get representation from a Veterans Service Officer (VSO)
- Get assistance from the Veteran’s Regional Office
The government will only evaluate the information found on the form. It means claimants must submit a comprehensive initial administrative claim, as these are the only details they can prove later. If a claimant fails to include vital information on their claim form, the court could deny them access to that evidence. The denial can adversely affect your case when you file a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit.
Wait for decision
Once the victim files their formal administrative claim, lawyers for the Navy will review and evaluate it. On average, it takes 125 days for the office to complete a claim. But this was before President Biden signed the PACT Act. The government is legally bound to accept or deny the claim within 180 days. Victims can assume that the government denied their claim after that timeframe.
If the Veterans Affairs office denies your claim, it is still possible to push for it. The best approach is to file a lawsuit. In this case, the United States will be the defendant and represented by the Department of Justice.
Consult with a Camp Lejeune lawyer
Seek the help of an experienced Camp Lejeune lawyer to back you up on your claim. They should be able to build your case for you and gather more information. Your lawyer can make or break your disability benefits claim, so find one with credibility.
A victim must also file a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit in a specific federal court. The suit falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Victims outside the Eastern District must file in the Southern Division of this court.
Survivors of a Camp Lejeune veteran can also file claims. To obtain a claim for the estate of a deceased loved one, a legal representative can file a claim on their behalf. But only the court in the state where the veteran died can appoint the legal representative.
Work With a Camp Lejeune Lawyer
The US government is accountable for the Camp Lejeune water contamination. The presence of scientifically proven evidence that links contaminated water with the development of certain diseases makes this a priority.
Thousands, if not millions, have endured for decades without proper support from the government. The least we can do for our veterans is to help them receive fair financial compensation. Rewarding them for their service in Camp Lejeune in this way is a small gesture but still necessary.
The Personal Injury Center has a comprehensive collection of resources to help you with your claim. We can also connect you to a qualified personal injury lawyer for a free consultation upon request.
Get justice with appropriate financial compensation for the Camp Lejeune water contamination. The Personal Injury Center ensures you get the right help.
FAQs on Camp Lejeune Lawsuit
Under the PACT Act, the government must provide an estimated $6.7 billion to compensate Camp Lejeune veterans. There is no guaranteed amount for compensation on a single claim. But a plaintiff can receive up to $3,000 monthly for medical expenses. Claimants should note that there is no cap on compensatory damages for Camp Lejeune victims.
Several factors in your claim can increase or decrease the amount you receive from VA. For example, experiencing a specific presumptive condition can fetch you more disability benefits than others. As the Honoring Our PACT Act is new, victims must consult a lawyer to claim fair compensation.
Suppose you successfully filed a claim with the VA and proved that water contamination caused your illness or injury. Then you may recover economic and non-economic damages. It ranges from financial losses, such as medical bills, to the pain and suffering you endured. For example, a victim may recover damages for medical costs, lost earning capacity, lost income, and future treatment costs.
In addition, victims may refile claims rejected by the VA before the enactment of the PACT Act. However, a statute of limitations still applies to Camp Lejeune lawsuits. Victims must file a suit within two years after President Biden signed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. Victims must also file a case within 180 days after a denied claim, whichever is later between the two options. These rules only apply to claims that accrued before the government enacted the law.
The Camp Lejeune water contamination occurred starting in the early 1950s. It continued for over two decades until the military shut the most contaminated wells down in 1985. The shutdown happened after the Marine Corps discovered volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in two of the eight treatment plants. In 1987, the military base shut down the Tarawa Terrace water treatment plant.