Veterans & Military

Veterans Getting Closer to Justice at Camp Lejeune

Written By:
May 19, 2022
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Written By: Tim Povtak,
May 19, 2022

Veterans and their families who were exposed to the contaminated drinking water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina may soon find the justice they have been seeking for many years.

The U.S. Senate is expected to soon pass legislation that delivers more comprehensive health care and benefits to veterans affected by all toxic exposure during their service.

The Honoring Our PACT Act, a broad, nationwide plan already passed in the House of Representatives, will include the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, which focuses on four decades of water contamination at the base and the serious health problems it caused.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act will allow individuals who were exposed to the toxic water to file lawsuits to recover damages as well as streamlining disability claims and additional benefits with the Veterans Administration.

To determine if you are eligible to file a lawsuit for compensation after being exposed to water contamination at Camp Lejeune, visit: www.camplejeunelawsuits.org.

“It’s fairness, tailor-made for people to get their day in court,” said House Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA), who co-sponsored the legislation. “We are talking about contaminated water that led to people getting all sorts of horrible illnesses.”

Toxic Risks at Military Bases

Older U.S. military bases almost everywhere have had problems with toxic chemicals over the years. Asbestos products – the primary cause of malignant mesothelioma cancer – have been particularly troubling throughout the military.

Veterans account for an estimated 30% of all people diagnosed with mesothelioma in the U.S., stemming from the widespread use of asbestos throughout the 20th century. Asbestos was once a coveted mineral because of its heat resistance and ability to strengthen almost anything it was mixed with.

At Camp Lejeune, though, the contaminated water has been the biggest health concern.

“As a veteran, most of us knew and accepted the risks of dangerous training environments and combat operations,” said former U.S. Army Captain Aaron Munz, who serves as director of the Veterans Department at The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com. “But we did not volunteer to be exposed to toxic chemicals from our equipment, barracks or military installations. The toxic chemicals that exposed service members and families at Camp Lejeune were a preventable disaster. Our service members and their families deserve better from our government.”

Camp Lejeune Drinking Water Contamination

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already determined that from 1953 to 1987, an estimated 900,000 veterans, family members and nearby civilians were potentially exposed to unsafe drinking water at Camp Lejeune.

The CDC has linked the contamination to various sources, including nearby industrial spills, underground storage tanks and an off-base dry cleaning firm.

Among the chemicals found in the two on-base water wells were:

  • Trichloroethylene (TCE)
  • Perchloroethylene (PCE)
  • Benzene
  • Vinyl chloride
  • Other compounds

Over the years, the toxic chemicals in the contaminated water found in and around Camp Lejeune have caused at least eight different medical conditions. These include:

  • Adult leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Bladder cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease

In 2013, the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry confirmed that the contaminants in the water at Camp Lejeune increased the risk of serious birth defects and childhood cancers.

Michael Kirby, a 64-year-old resident of Colorado, spent a year as a child living at Camp Lejeune with his parents in the late ‘50s.

His father, Gerald Kirby, was a marine Sergeant who had earned a Purple Heart at age 19. He died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma at age 28. His mother Shirley died of leukemia at age 59. Kirby was treated 25 years ago for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and survived. His brother Jerry was diagnosed for the same disease five years ago.

“We never had any cancer in our family history until Camp Lejeune,” Kirby told the Daily Beast news outlet.

VA Claims from Camp Lejeune

Although the Veterans Administration has been providing disability compensation to affected families, most filings are denied for various reasons. Many people still believe the system is broken.

According to one report by CBS News earlier this year, the VA said its overall rate of approval for claims from Camp Lejeune averages only 17%.

To file a claim with the VA today, you must have lived a minimum of 30 days at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987.

The pending legislation would be a welcome respite for those who have been harmed in various ways. Legal action in the past has been inhibited by state laws in North Carolina, one of which requires a cancer to have been diagnosed within 10 years of the toxic activity.

The law will cover all active-duty personnel, reserve and National Guard members, along with family members.