Veterans Exposed to Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune Encouraged to Seek Disability Benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is urging veterans and service members dealing with illnesses that may be tied to toxic exposure from contaminated water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune to pursue disability claims, even if doing so may reduce the amount of court-awarded relief they may be entitled to down the road. More than one million men, women, and children may have been adversely affected by exposure to cancer-causing chemicals in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune. If you or a loved one lived or served at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and you have since been diagnosed with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, or another serious illness, you may have grounds to file a Camp Lejeune water contamination claim against the federal government. Our consumer advocates can connect you with a knowledgeable Camp Lejeune water contamination attorney today, so don’t wait to make the call.

Exposure to Camp Lejeune Water Linked to Adverse Health Outcomes

The water supplied to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, was found to be polluted with toxic chemicals. According to the VA, “Two on-base water supply systems [at Camp Lejeune] were contaminated with the volatile organic compounds trichloroethylene (TCE), a metal degreaser; perchloroethylene (PCE), a dry cleaning agent; benzene; and vinyl chloride.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the Marine Corps first discovered harmful chemicals in the drinking water supplied by Camp Lejeune treatment plants in 1982. For decades, veterans who served on the base and their families who lived there drank, bathed in, and were otherwise exposed to these toxic compounds in the water supply and may now be at risk for any number of serious and potentially life-threatening medical conditions. The ATSDR has since determined that exposure to contaminants like vinyl chloride, trichloroethylene, and tetrachloroethylene likely increased the risk of exposed individuals developing certain serious illnesses, including cancer. 

Legislation Seeks to Compensate Veterans for Toxic Exposure

Thanks to legislation passed in 2012, veterans exposed to contaminants in the water at Camp Lejeune became eligible for free healthcare services related to any of 15 specified cancers and medical conditions presumed to be connected to their military service. The legislation was expanded in 2017 to provide disability compensation benefits to former Reservists and National Guard members who served at Camp Lejeune and developed one of eight medical conditions, including bladder cancer, adult leukemia, and multiple myeloma. According to the VA, by the end of January 2023, it had received over 102,000 disability claims related to exposure to toxic chemicals at Camp Lejeune since it began tracking the claims more than a decade ago. 

What is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022?

A new bill signed into law in August 2022 makes it easier for Camp Lejeune victims to sue the government for illnesses, birth defects, and other injuries caused by exposure to toxic chemicals in the water supplied to Camp Lejeune. As part of the expansive Honoring Our PACT Act, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 (CLJA) permits certain individuals harmed by exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, to sue and recover damages for their injuries. 

However, any compensation received from a lawsuit must be “offset” by any benefits the individual is already receiving for disabilities related to toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune. Despite this caveat, the VA is urging veterans to move forward with their disability claims. “VA wants to make sure that no one is dissuaded from pursuing their VA remedies,” stated David Barrans, a lawyer in the VA’s Office of the General Counsel. “We just want to make sure that people understand that VA is not going to reduce or deny your benefits because you pursued your other remedies under the PACT Act.”

Find Out if You Have Grounds for Legal Recourse

“There’s essentially two remedies here, the VA benefits remedy and the tort claim or the damage claim remedy,” Barrans says. As stated on a fact sheet issued to veterans by the VA, “Your VA compensation benefits or health care services will not be impacted if you file a lawsuit. If you are awarded relief from a CLJA lawsuit, your VA benefits will not be reduced, and your eligibility for other VA benefits or services will not be affected.”

If you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and you developed one of several specified medical conditions allegedly caused by exposure to harmful chemicals in the on-base water supply, contact our consumer advocates immediately for more information. In addition to disability benefits administered through the VA, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit against the federal government for your toxic exposure, and we can help connect you with an experienced attorney.

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