The Camp Lejeune Justice Act was passed by Congress recently. The act will allow survivors of the toxic exposure at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune to receive medical treatment and compensation through a new claims process. It’s an essential milestone in the fight to get justice for those affected by this tragedy, but it’s not without its shortcomings.
In this post, we’ll walk you through what this law means for victims of Camp Lejeune, how you can help others who were affected by the toxic exposure, and what we need to do next to ensure that all victims get the justice they deserve.
In August, Congress passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act
In August, Congress passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. The act is named after Camp Lejeune and provides benefits to victims of water contamination at Camp Lejeune. It also provides partial relief for those who have suffered severe health problems related to exposure to toxic chemicals at or near the base.
The legislation allows certain veterans and active-duty military members stationed at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 to receive medical care from VA providers without paying copays or deductibles under their VA health plan. Victims can access treatment without worrying about how expensive it might be.
The Act Provides Partial Relief for Victims of Water Contamination
Since the act was passed, about 5,000 claims over contaminated water at Camp Lejeune have been filed. Camp Lejeune Veterans who were exposed to contaminated water and, as a result, suffered significant medical issues are entitled to partial compensation under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act.
The Act, signed into law in August by President Biden, is not a substitute for a full and fair settlement. It provides only limited relief to eligible veterans, who must first file their claim with the VA no later than December 31st of this year.
Who Is Eligible for Benefits Under the Act?
With two billion people not having safe water access, it’s difficult to prove the source of contamination. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act applies to all veterans who served at Camp Lejeune between August 1st, 1953, and December 31st, 1987. The VA will determine whether or not a veteran was exposed to contaminated water and other toxic substances while stationed at Camp Lejeune during those years.
Suppose the VA determines that your service qualifies you for benefits under the Act. In that case, they will assess whether there is an association between any illnesses you may have developed while serving at Camp Lejeune and exposure to toxic substances in the water supply.
For this assessment to take place, it is required that veterans submit a formal request for consideration of benefits under this law via email or mail as soon as possible after it becomes effective (which may take some time).
What Are the Benefits?
The Camp Lejeune Act will create a program to provide medical care, lost income, pain and suffering, and burial costs.
- Medical costs – The VA will reimburse veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune for any health care expenses they incur due to their exposure to contaminated water, food, or soil.
- Lost Income – Retirees who received pay while stationed at the base during the time frame will receive compensation equal to what they would have earned had they not been exposed to VA’s table of values.
- Pain and Suffering – Veterans can request additional compensation for pain and suffering after exposure to contaminated water, food, or soil while on active duty at Camp Lejeune. Veterans are eligible if they experienced one or more symptoms such as cancer (including leukemia), non-cancerous lymphatic system disease such as Hodgkin’s disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome that occurred within four years after their last date of service there (within ten years if the exposure occurred before 1986).
What Conditions Are Covered by This Act?
Contaminated water and poor sanitation usually cause cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, and polio. But the Camp Lejeune diseases were much more severe. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act covers illnesses caused by exposure to chemicals in drinking water at Camp Lejeune, it does not cover illnesses that other factors could have caused. For example, if your loved one served at Camp Lejeune and was diagnosed with kidney cancer after moving to another location in North Carolina, this bill may not be able to help you.
However, suppose your loved one served at Camp Lejeune and was diagnosed with kidney cancer after returning from the military without moving anywhere else or being exposed to any other known risk factors for kidney cancer. In that case, this act may be able to help you.
If you believe you served at Camp Lejeune and may be eligible for benefits, do not delay filing your application for benefits. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act relieves victims of water contamination at Camp Lejeune. However, it does not cover all Camp Lejeune victims, and even if you are eligible for benefits, it is essential to file your application as soon as possible.
When considering the magnitude of the Camp Lejeune water contamination, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the legal complexities and jargon. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to protecting your and your family’s health. If you think that you may have been affected by the water contamination at Camp Lejeune, speak with an attorney who specializes in this area as soon as possible so they can advise you on what steps to take next.