Camp Lejeune Veterans Win Justice
August 10, 2022
On Wednesday, Aug. 10, President Joe Biden signed the comprehensive Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 into law, allowing military veterans and families harmed by contaminated water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune to file lawsuits against the federal government.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, which focuses on four decades of water contamination, is just one part of the much broader PACT Act, which expands access to health care and disability benefits for veterans harmed by toxic exposures around the world.
Biden lauded the bipartisan support for the PACT Act at the signing.
“There are a lot of issues we can disagree on, but there are issues we can work together on, and this is one of those issues. We have fought for this for so many years,” he said. “This law is long overdue. We finally got it done together.”
Biden spotlighted the critical support this legislation offers survivors and noted that as commander in chief he believes his role “includes always fighting for the care and benefits you more than earned and more than deserve. Got it done and God bless you all.”
The legislation specifically says that in any health care or disability lawsuit regarding contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, the U.S. government may not assert any claim to immunity that would typically be available.
All legal action against the government must be filed through the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, the jurisdiction covering the base.
“I am urging veterans of those decades of war to promptly file for your claims,” Biden said. “The VA will move as quickly as possible to resolve your claim and get you the benefits and the care you have earned.”
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.
Military Bases Dangerous Everywhere
For decades, U.S. military bases throughout the country – and the world – have been plagued by nearby problems with toxic hazards, such as burn pits, radiation, asbestos and Agent Orange, leading to a wide range of serious health problems.
This legislation will cover rare conditions and chronic illnesses stemming from exposure to toxic chemicals in the line of duty, which could include an estimated 3.5 million veterans.
Asbestos products – the primary cause of mesothelioma cancer – have been particularly troubling for veterans everywhere. Veterans account for an estimated 33% of all those diagnosed with mesothelioma within the U.S.
The contaminated water, though, has been the biggest concern at Camp Lejeune for many years.
From 1953 to 1987, an estimated 900,000 veterans, family members and nearby civilians were potentially exposed to unsafe water at Camp Lejeune, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those numbers include National Guard and Army Reserve, as well as active-duty personnel.
Contamination Led to Trouble
The CDC linked contamination at Camp Lejeune to various sources, including underground storage tanks, a dry cleaning firm located off base and nearby industrial spills.
Among the toxic compounds found in the water over the years were benzene, perchloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE) and vinyl chloride.
The contaminated water in and around Camp Lejeune has caused at least eight serious medical conditions. They are:
- Liver cancer
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Parkinson’s disease
- Adult Leukemia
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- Multiple myeloma
Contaminants in the water at Camp Lejeune also increased the risk of childhood cancers and serious birth defects, according to the CDC’s Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.
Eligibility to take legal action is wide-ranging. Any veteran or family member (including in utero exposure) who resided, worked or was otherwise exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987, could qualify.
Punitive damages may not be awarded under the law.
Streamline the VA Process
The Veterans Administration has been providing disability benefits for veterans and their families for many years, stemming from the Camp Lejeune contamination. Due to various reasons, however, the VA denies most of those filing for benefits, leading to considerable frustration.
According to CBS News, the VA said its overall approval rating on claims from Camp Lejeune water contamination is only 17%.
The PACT Act of 2022 is expected to streamline the VA process of rewarding veterans, increase the list of presumptive conditions that will be included for compensation and expand medical care eligibility.
“This is long overdue, and hopefully will lead to more acknowledgment of the hazards that veterans were exposed to during service, including asbestos exposure, Agent Orange and burn pits,” said Aaron Munz, former U.S. Army Captain and director of the Veterans Department at The Mesothelioma Center. “The PACT Act will finally make it easier for veterans and families exposed to toxic chemicals at Camp Lejeune to access medical and financial assistance.”
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Honoring Our Pact Act will cost $278.5 billion over the next decade.
Patients and families affected by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune must file within two years.