The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides healthcare and financial benefits to veterans with service-related health conditions. Vets and their family members who suffer from medical problems and elevated health risks stemming from water contamination at Camp Lejeune can obtain medical and financial benefits through the VA. Recent legislation also entitles vets and civilians affected by water contamination at Camp Lejeune to sue the federal government for damages.
If you were exposed to contaminated water at or near Camp Lejeune in North Carolina for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, you may have the right to claim significant medical and monetary benefits from the VA. You may also have the right to sue the federal government for additional money damages. The most efficient and effective way to get the funds and benefits owed to you is to work with an experienced Camp Lejeune claims attorney.
Brief Overview of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
According to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), beginning in the early 1950s and lasting until the mid-to-late 1980s, water from two of the eight water treatment facilities at Camp Lejeune contained unacceptably high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are hazardous to human health.
According to ATSDR, exposure to those chemicals “likely increased the risk of cancers (kidney, multiple myeloma, leukemias, and others), adverse birth outcomes, and other adverse health effects” in those affected.
Numerous service members and civilians suffered potential hazardous exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. The two affected plants—the Tarawa Terrace Water Treatment Plant and the Hadnot Point Water Treatment Plant—primarily supplied water to family housing units and residential areas at the base.
The contamination in their wells originated from various sources, including an off-base dry cleaning company’s waste disposal practices, leaking underground storage tanks, chemical spills, and waste disposal sites.
- Water from the Tarawa Terrace plant, which served the Tarawa Terrace family housing and the Knox trailer park, contained dangerous levels of tetrachloroethylene (also called perchloroethylene, PCE, or perc), a known cancer-causing chemical.
- The Hadnot Point plant, which served the Mainside barracks, Hospital Point family housing, and (until 1972) family housing at Midway Park, Paradise Point, and Berkeley Manor, contained extremely high levels of the known cancer-causing agent trichloroethylene (TCE) as well as other VOCs.
- Between 1972 and 1987, Hadnot Point also intermittently supplemented the water supply at another plant, Holcomb Boulevard, which served the same housing units supplied by Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point, as well as the Watkins Village housing units.
Over thirty-plus years, generations of soldiers and their families drank, bathed in, and cooked with contaminated water on a regular basis. Service members and civilian workers also routinely consumed and used the water in base operations. ATSDR estimates that as many as one million Camp Lejeune residents (including infants and children), civilian workers, and military personnel may have suffered hazardous exposures between 1953 and 1987.
VA Benefits for Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
The VA recognizes that contaminated water at Camp Lejeune may have caused severe and ongoing health problems for affected service members and their families.
Accordingly, you may qualify for VA financial and medical benefits if:
- You served or lived at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for at least 30 days cumulatively between August 1953 and December 1987; and
- You suffer from a health condition potentially linked to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
The type of benefit you can receive from the VA differs depending upon whether you served or merely lived at Camp Lejeune with a service member.
Benefits for Servicemen and Servicewomen
If you served at Camp Lejeune for a qualifying period of time, you may qualify for disability benefits, healthcare services, and reimbursement of healthcare costs.
Disability benefits are payments to compensate you for the disabling impact of a service-related health condition.
The VA recognizes eight illnesses tied to Camp Lejeune water contamination as presumptive conditions that automatically qualify you for disability benefits:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
If you receive a diagnosis of one or more of these conditions after having served for a qualifying period of time at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River, the VA presumes that your illness stems from your military service. That means you need only prove your diagnosis to establish your eligibility for disability benefits; you do not have to go to the added trouble of proving a link between your illness and your service. (To qualify, however, you must not have been dishonorably discharged.)
You can also apply for disability benefits for other “non-presumptive” health problems you believe result from your water exposure at Camp Lejeune. But to be approved, you must prove a link between that exposure and your health condition.
The VA also provides or pays for medical care to service members suffering from one or more of fifteen Camp Lejeune-related illnesses:
- 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
Service members suffering from any of these conditions can seek care at VA medical facilities, or apply to the VA for reimbursement of money they spend seeking care from other providers.
An experienced Camp Lejeune claims attorney can assist active duty service members, reservists, guard members, and veterans in applying for these benefits.
Benefits for Family Members
Family members of service members are not generally entitled to receive disability benefits for their own medical conditions caused by Camp Lejeune contaminated water exposure. But, through the Camp Lejeune Family Member Program, they can seek reimbursement of their healthcare costs from the VA if they suffer from any of the fifteen Camp Lejeune-related health conditions listed above.
To receive these benefits, family members must submit documentation to the VA proving:
- Their spouse or family member’s qualifying service at Camp Lejeune;
- Their own qualifying presence at Camp Lejeune during their spouse or family member’s period of service;
- Their diagnosis with one or more of the fifteen covered conditions above; and
- Evidence of their healthcare expenditures for those conditions.
An experienced Camp Lejeune claims attorney can assist Camp Lejeune family members in applying for these benefits.
Suing the Federal Government for Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Money Damages
Applying to the VA is not the only way to obtain compensation for the harm you suffered from exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. A new federal law may also entitle you to sue the federal government for money damages in addition to any money you receive from the VA.
On August 10, 2022, President Biden signed into law the Honoring Our PACT Act (the PACT Act), which incorporated the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA). Under the CLJA, veterans and civilians who lived, worked, or were otherwise exposed (including exposure in utero) to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987 can sue the federal government for money damages for harm caused by that exposure.
In a lawsuit for money damages, you may claim compensation for:
- Medical expenses related to your treatment of a Camp Lejeune-related illness;
- Other expenses necessitated by your illness or exposure to toxic water at Camp Lejeune;
- Your lost wages or future income; and
- Your pain, suffering, inconvenience, and loss of quality of life resulting from your contaminated water exposure.
You may need to act quickly to preserve your rights to sue under the CLJA. In most cases, the deadline for filing a lawsuit is two years from the passage of the PACT Act—August 9, 2024. If you wait until after this date to take legal action, you may lose your right to seek money damages for the harm you suffered from Camp Lejeune water contamination.
How An Experienced Camp Lejeune Claims Lawyer Can Help
Summarizing what we’ve covered so far: if you or someone you love suffered an exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, you may have the right to receive significant financial compensation and other benefits. So what should you do next?
The most reliable way to secure maximum payment from the VA and federal government for the harm you’ve suffered is to work with an experienced Camp Lejeune claims attorney.
A skilled lawyer who represents Camp Lejeune victims like you can:
- Meet with you free of charge to learn about your time at Camp Lejeune and explore your rights and options for seeking compensation;
- Connect you with medical providers who can evaluate and give opinions about links between your health conditions and your Camp Lejeune contaminated water exposure;
- Locate and compile evidence to prove your qualifying presence at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987;
- Calculate the financial value of the harm and potential harm you have suffered because of your exposure;
- Prepare, file, and pursue legal claims with the VA or in federal court seeking compensation and other benefits on your behalf;
- Handle all aspects of the process of litigating those claims, including appearing in court or administrative proceedings as your representative;
- Engage in settlement negotiations when possible to secure a favorable payment for you and your family;
- Take your case to trial if necessary to prove your water contamination damages claim to a judge and jury;
- Collect money owed to you through a settlement, judgment, or jury verdict.
Camp Lejeune lawyers generally do the type of work described above without charging you a penny upfront or as your case goes along. Instead, they work on contingency, meaning that they only collect a fee if they get you results. You pay nothing, in other words, unless the lawyer gets you paid.
How much is your Camp Lejeune claim worth?
The amount of compensation you might hope to receive for Camp Lejeune contaminated water exposure can vary from case to case.
Numerous factors can affect the value of your claim, such as:
- Whether you served and can claim disability from the VA;
- The duration and nature of your exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune;
- Whether you currently suffer from a Camp Lejeune-related illness;
- The type of illness you suffer from;
- The severity of your illness and your future prognosis;
- How much you’ve spent to treat and live with a Camp Lejeune-related health condition;
- Your current age and overall state of health;
- The strength of the evidence available to prove your presence at Camp Lejeune and the links between your health condition and your exposure; and
- The skill and experience of your Camp Lejeune claims attorney.
One thing is certain: The only dependable way to secure top-dollar compensation is to have a skilled Camp Lejeune claims attorney on your side. Do not settle for just any personal injury lawyer and, whatever you do, do not attempt to represent yourself. Only trust your claim to an experienced lawyer who understands the laws, regulations, and procedures for obtaining money from the VA and the federal government in Camp Lejeune cases.
Contact a Skilled Camp Lejeune Claims Attorney Today
For over three decades, Americans who served, worked, and lived at Camp Lejeune had a silent, deadly enemy in their midst. Dangerous chemicals known to cause cancer and other diseases contaminated their water supply, poisoning their every meal, shower, and stop at a drinking fountain. No one was safe.
Today, hundreds of thousands (or more) victims of Camp Lejeune’s dangerous water live under the shadow of potentially fatal illness caused by their toxic exposure. Many have already fallen ill or died, but others must wait and worry about what the future holds.
If you or someone you love suffered an exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, you have potentially valuable rights to compensation and benefits from the VA and federal government. Do not wait to seek legal help. Contact an experienced Camp Lejeune claims attorney today for a free consultation about your rights and options.