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The U.S. Government Finally Accepts Responsibility for those Injured by Toxic Exposure at Camp Lejeune

If you ever listen to the radio, use the internet, or watch television, you have heard numerous ads about “Camp Lejeune” and potential legal claims. You may be asking yourself why are all these ads taking over the airwaves and why now? The answer is that in August 2022, Congress—after decades of the military dragging its feet—has finally stepped in and is allowing compensation to injured veterans and their families for diseases caused by toxic chemicals at Camp Lejeune.

Camp Lejeune is a massive U.S. Marine Corps base on the North Carolina coast where nearly 40,000 Marines are trained every year, going back to World War II, and where tens of thousands of family members of Marines also live. Between 1953 to 1987, the tap water used on base was highly contaminated with numerous industrial toxins. Most of the toxins were from dump sites, dry cleaning, and industrial part cleaning facilities adjacent to well-water sites on the base.

The exposure caused Marines and their families to develop numerous different diseases, including multiple types of cancer, infertility, miscarriages, lymphoma, leukemia, anemia, liver disease, and neurological disorders. The U.S. Navy has been aware of the toxicity in the water at the base since at least 1982.

For decades, none of the Marines or their families who were exposed to toxins at the base received medical care or compensation from the government because of the military’s sovereign immunity for deployment-related lawsuits under the “Feres doctrine.” This began to change in 2012, when Congress passed the Janey Eslinger Act. The act, named after the 9-year-old daughter of a Marine who died of leukemia after drinking the water at Camp Lejeune, provided VA healthcare benefits for those exposed on base.

The Janey Eslinger Act only provided medical care for some of those injured at Camp Lejeune, and it still required significant red tape to apply. This changed in August 2022, when Congress passed the “Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT)” of 2022. The new law provides monetary benefits to anyone exposed to toxins at the base, including in utero exposure, and does not require proof of negligence. The new law significantly reduces the red tape to seek compensation and expands the scope of damages an injured person may potentially recover to include medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, including emotional suffering.

To be eligible for recovery, a claimant must have lived at Camp Lejeune, including in utero, for 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 and been exposed to one of multiple sources of toxic water while on-base. Additionally, a claimant (or a deceased family member) must have been subsequently diagnosed with one of the below conditions:

  • Bladder, breast, esophageal, kidney, or lung cancer
  • Female infertility
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Leukemia
  • Miscarriage
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Renal toxicity
  • Scleroderma

Those who meet the above criteria must first submit a “Form 95” claim with the VA before filing a lawsuit, which allows the VA 180 days to investigate and either accept or deny the claim. If the claim is not settled, a lawsuit is then filed in federal court and the case proceeds like any other personal injury lawsuit.

Because of the difficulty in litigating a complex toxic exposure claim, injured veterans and their families should contact a lawyer to assist them with this process. If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered terrible illness because of toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune, please do not hesitate to contact us at the Poppe Law Firm.

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