U.S. Veterans, their family members or others may have been exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina between 1953 and 1987, and developed cancer or serious health effects years after exposure. The Veterans Administration may have denied claims for illness or disability, but a new law known as the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) of 2022, passed as part of the PACT Act, may allow them compensation.
People who may be eligible for compensation through the Act include those who were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune for more than 30 days, and developed health conditions may be eligible for compensation, even if they had their claims denied by the Veterans Administration.
Illnesses caused by Camp Lejeune water contamination may include:
- Bladder Cancer
- Breast Cancer
- Cervical Cancer
- Esophageal Cancer
- Kidney Cancer
- Lung Cancer
- Liver Cancer
- Ovarian Cancer
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Myelodysplastic Syndromes
- Female Infertility
- Birth Defects
- Hepatic Steatosis
- Renal Toxicity
- Cardiac effects
- Neurobehavioral Effects
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Other Cancer or Health Conditions
Water Contamination Testing at Camp Lejeune
Routine water testing in 1982, found that some drinking water sources at Marine Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina were contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals.
Water testing at Tarawa Terrace Treatment Plant and Hadnot Point Treatment Plant, both of which supplied homes and buildings at Camp Lejeune found benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene or perchloroethylene (PCE) and vinyl chloride (VC). In some cases, the presence of the harmful chemicals was up to 300 times acceptable levels.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), multiple contamination sources were identified and included leaking underground storage tanks and waste disposal sites. The most contaminated wells were reportedly closed in 1985 but many people have continued to develop long-term health problems from prior exposure.
Health effects of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Chemicals
A number of health conditions have been linked to exposure to benzene, PCE, TCE and VC including cancer, neurologic effects, birth defects and other serious conditions. Though some people may not demonstrate toxic effects, others may be affected immediately or have illnesses that take years to develop.
The effects of exposure to the chemicals found at Camp Lejeune may depend on:
- When exposure occurs (infancy, pregnancy, childhood etc.)
- Amount of exposure (how much)
- Length of exposure (how long)
- Method of exposure (drinking, breathing, skin contact)
- Other factors
People who have suffered health problems from toxic chemical exposure at Camp Lejeune include Marines and other servicemen, base employees, base residents, family members and those who were in-utero at the time of exposure.
Veterans Administration Denied Benefits for Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
The Veterans Administration may have rejected claims of illnesses related to toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune and denied benefits to people who are now eligible for compensation through the Act. The VA may have used physicians who were not specialists to evaluate veteran claims. Though the VA has claimed that doctors had “appropriate credentials”, non-specialist physicians may have completed as little as four hours training on issues related to Camp Lejeune water contamination.
Traditionally, Military members have been prohibited from filing lawsuit for injuries related to official service by the Feres Doctrine. Service members are instead required to seek compensation from the Veterans Administration however many claims have been denied by the VA. In addition, a state law in North Carolina prevents lawsuits from being filed if the event of exposure was more than 10 years past, not long enough for chronic health effects to develop. Now, many of these people may be eligible to receive compensation.
Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 was signed into law by President Biden in August 2022. It was a bipartisan effort to ensure that people who were harmed after exposure to toxic water at Camp Lejeune, receive just compensation. The Camp Lejeune Act was rolled into a larger Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 which permits injured veterans and families to pursue justice for a variety of harms caused by toxic conditions.
The Act will permit those who were exposed for at least 30 days to Camp Lejeune drinking water between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and who developed a health condition related to toxic exposure, to file a claim in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Former Marines and other military service members, family members, base residents, employees, and those who were exposed while in-utero may be eligible for compensation, even if claims were denied by the VA.
The CLJA will override previous barriers to compensation for many military members and their families who had been barred from seeking justice. It will also override North Carolina limitations and re-open the time window for filing a lawsuit for two years after the bill is passed into law.
If you or a family member were stationed, lived, or worked at Marine Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and were diagnosed with cancer, or another illness caused by contaminated water, you may be eligible for compensation, even if your claim was denied by the Veterans Administration.