The US government knew about the presence of toxins in drinking water at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base Camp but failed to take action. As a result, more than a million people serving, working, and living in the area faced exposure to the risk of fatal diseases due to the negligence of the authorities. Unfortunately, veterans and military family members who suffered due to water contamination could not do much to seek justice. But things have changed with the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022.
Victims can now file a claim against the government and seek the compensation they deserve. It is great news for veterans, residents, workers, and families who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune during the dangerous period. But you cannot expect the claim to be as simple as it sounds. Being prepared makes sense as you must have a strong case with valid evidence. Here is a military veteran’s guide to cover both fronts.
Health and Birth Problems Lasting for Decades
The Camp Lejeune water contamination lasted for decades, roughly 35 years between 1953 and 1987. During this period, the drinking water in the area contained high levels of toxins such as vinyl chloride, trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, and benzene. These potentially lethal substances entered the water supply from sources like leaking storage tanks, industrial spills, and waste disposal sites. The worst part is that they went undetected for decades.
Consequently, military personnel and their families, civilian workers, and others living and working in the area were exposed to toxins. These led to a high risk of many forms of cancer, birth complications, and other serious health complications. In fact, the concentration of toxins was hundreds of times the permitted levels. The worst part was the government’s negligence because it failed to address the situation despite being aware of the risk and complications.
Legal Action was Prohibited by State Laws
The negligence toward water contamination at Camp Lejeune was painful enough, but the fact that legal action was prohibited was even worse. According to a statute of repose unique to North Carolina, victims cannot bring claims against a polluter after ten years. Even legitimate cases against the authorities were dismissed despite the link between Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water and the disease(s) they suffered from.
Many veterans claimed disability compensation for their medical conditions, but it was not enough. The worst part was that family members and civilian workers had no recourse to seek justice. Fortunately, the situation is different now as you can collaborate with a local water contamination lawyer to claim compensation for your damages, pain, and suffering. Besides veterans, even their loved ones and civilians are entitled to compensation.
Revival of Hope with the Camp Lejeune Justice Act
The passing of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act revives the hope of veterans, residents, and victims of toxic exposure at the base. Essentially, the act bypasses North Carolina’s statute of repose, making it possible to overlook the ten-year limit for filing a pollutant claim. It means that any person who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune can claim reparations from the government, provided they meet certain eligibility criteria. The government can no longer claim immunity as a defence because the bill prohibits it.
However, you must be aware of the eligibility criteria to bring a valid water contamination claim as a veteran:
- You must have served or lived at Camp Lejeune for a minimum of thirty days between August 1953 and December 1987.
- You must have been diagnosed with a medical condition caused by toxic exposure at the base.
- Primary caretakers such as spouses and children of victims can also file a claim on behalf of their loved ones.
Camp Lejeune Compensation overrides Disability Benefits
Before the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, veterans only had the option to seek disability benefits for their medical condition(s). The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims process was extended in 2017 to include eight medical conditions linked with toxic chemicals and water contamination at Camp Lejeune. It came as a relief for veterans, but non-veterans were left in a lurch because they failed to qualify.
Further, VA benefits include only the out-of-pocket costs and miss out on compensation for pain and suffering. But you can claim it with a Camp Lejeune claim. Family members of veterans and civilians get the chance to seek justice and compensation under the water compensation claims.
Now that you know all about a Camp Lejeune claim, you only need to find an expert to help you file it. They can assist you to get the compensation you deserve, and even enable the loved ones of the deceased to claim.