Camp Lejeune Examined for Water Contamination

Introduction

Sadly, for decades, toxic chemicals contaminated the water supply of the United States military base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

In turn, many service members and their families, as well as non-military individuals and families located at the base developed multiple types of cancer, other serious illnesses, and birth defects.

In fact, the CDC estimates nearly 900,000 veterans, family members and civilians in close proximity to the site were potentially exposed to the harmful chemicals contained in the water supply at Camp Lejeune between the early 1950s and mid-1980s.

What was in the Water?

Between 1953 and 1987, people living or working at Camp Lejeune used the contaminated water supply for drinking, bathing, and washing clothes.

After two of the on-base water wells were shut down in 1985, numerous harmful chemicals were found in the water, including trichloroethylene, benzene, perchloroethylene, and vinyl chloride.

Can those Affected by this Claim Benefits?

It took a long time to recognise that there was a problem with the water supply, and it has taken even longer for people affected by the contamination to be able to receive health care benefits and financial compensation as a result.

You may be eligible to claim some benefits if you or a family member were exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune and developed a certain health condition.

Check out this helpful guide to learn more about whether you can seek compensation.

In the meantime, here is some more information about benefits that should be useful.

The Janey Ensminger Act

In 2012, the Janey Ensminger Act was passed – named after the daughter of Jerry Ensminger, a US Marine.

Sadly, Janey died when she was only nine years old after developing leukaemia, which likely happened as a result of exposure to the Camp Lejeune water contaminants.

The Janey Ensminger Act of 2012 enabled non-military family members to apply for VA healthcare benefits related to exposure to the toxins. The act established a presumptive service connection for specific illnesses related to the Camp Lejeune incident, meanings you do not have to prove that your health condition was caused by exposure to the contaminants at the military base. You just need to show that you lived on the base for at least thirty days during the contamination period and developed one of the listed health conditions.

Benefits Requirements

To be eligible for healthcare benefits and financial compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs, you must meet certain requirements.

  • Firstly, you must have been at Camp Lejeune or Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River for at least thirty days between August 1953 and December 1987.
  • Secondly, you must not have received a dishonourable discharge.
  • Thirdly, you must have been diagnosed with one of the following eight presumptive conditions:
    • Bladder cancer.
    • Liver cancer.
    • Kidney cancer.
    • Adult leukaemia.
    • Parkinson’s disease.
    • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
    • Aplastic anaemia or another myelodysplastic syndrome.
    • Multiple myeloma.

Furthermore, veterans and their family members who were at Camp Lejeune during the contamination period may be able to claim out-of-pocket healthcare costs from the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, the costs must be related to one of the following fifteen conditions:

  • Lung cancer.
  • Kidney cancer.
  • Bladder cancer.
  • Oesophageal cancer.
  • Breast cancer.
  • Leukaemia.
  • Scleroderma.
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • Hepatic steatosis.
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes.
  • Female infertility.
  • Miscarriage.
  • Multiple myeloma.
  • Renal toxicity.
  • Neurobehavioral effects.

With regards to neurobehavioral effects, multiple studies are currently underway to look further into what effects people have developed as a result of the water contamination at Camp Lejeune.

Examples of the neurobehavioral effects that people have experienced include, but are not limited to, dementia, poor concentration, poor memory, fatigue, insomnia, motor problems, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act

While it is great that qualifying veterans and their families can receive healthcare and VA compensation, the benefits do not go far enough to provide affected parties with full and fair compensation for their health conditions due to various barriers.

Those barriers include the immunity of filed suits due to a US Supreme Court decision that states an individual cannot file a suit based on injuries to his or her military service, and non-military victims being legally prohibited from filing claims under a specific North Carolina law that prevents tort suits in which the defendant’s last act or omission is over ten years old.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act hopes to remove such barriers but, unfortunately, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act has, for now, been blocked by Republican senators (as at 29 July 2022).

If this legislation is passed, it will enable people who were exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune to recover damages. There is still hope that it will pass in the future, though.

Summary

It is incredible that the water contamination at Camp Lejeune was not identified and resolved for so long. It is also incredible that victims have had to wait so long to be able to claim health benefits and compensation – But at least victims of the water contamination now have the opportunity to gain some recompense.

If you developed a health issue due to Camp Lejeune’s water contamination, make sure you apply for compensation.

Hopefully, lessons have been learnt from the Camp Lejeune incident and we will not discover there have been water contaminations at other military bases in the United States.

References

Janey Ensminger Act 2012 @

Camp Lejeune Justice Act 2022 @ https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/6482/text.

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