Do I Qualify to Apply for Veterans Disability Compensation or a Lawsuit to Recover for Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Injuries?
The Department of Veterans Affairs could cover your service-related medical expenses if:
- You served at Camp Lejeune or M.C.A.S. New River for at least 30 cumulative days between August 1953 and December 1987;
- You did not receive a dishonorable discharge when you ended your service; and
- You have been diagnosed with a qualifying presumptive medical condition.
Do I Need a Personal Injury Attorney to Receive Compensation for my Camp Lejeune Injuries?
Veterans do not necessarily need a personal injury to apply for compensation from the VA for injuries caused by water contamination at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base camp and Marine Corps Air Station New River.
But unfortunately, the V.A. often makes receiving treatment more difficult than it needs to be. Every veteran knows that the department can take months – and in some cases, years – to review claims and disburse benefits.
However, recent developments could make it substantially easier to receive recompense for your injuries.
On August 10, 2022, President Biden signed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (S.3373) into law as part of the PACT Act of 2022. The bill had passed both House and Senate confirmation. The bill makes the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina the exclusive locations for suits filed related to Camp Lejeuene water contamination.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act was part of a broader piece of legislation (the “Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022” or “Honoring our PACT Act of 2022”) which centered around covering healthcare and disability claims for veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits and other service-related toxic environments.
Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune
Construction at Camp Lejeune began shortly before the United States entered the Second World War. By 1942, the base was not only operational but among the most modern in the nation. Since its foundation, Camp Lejeune has hosted tens of thousands of active-duty Marines and trained many others in amphibious assault techniques and tactics.
While Camp Lejeune’s contributions to American military history cannot be understated, the base has a troubled past. In 1982, a congressional act compelled the Marine Corps to begin investigating the eight treatment facilities providing water to the base.
- The Tarawa Terrace facility was contaminated by tetrachlorethylene, or PCE. Investigators traced the source of the contamination to an off-base dry cleaning business.
- The Hadnot Point water treatment plant was contaminated by trichloroethylene, benzene, and TCE. Hadnot’s wells were afflicted by numerous problems, including underground leakage, industrial spills, and waste disposal sites.
How Negligence Threatened Marines’ Well-Being
The variety of volatile organic compounds found at Camp Lejeune are not dangerous in small quantities.
However, many Marines relied on the Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point water treatment facilities to meet their daily needs. They cooked with contaminated water, bathed in contaminated water, and drank contaminated water. Each and every year, an estimated 6,000 Marines received toxic water from these two plants. In total, 750,000 Marines, contractors, and their civilian family members may have been exposed to VOCs in the camp’s drinking water.
Administrators Ignored Recommendations to Find the Source of Camp Lejeune Contamination
The Marine Corps realized the extent of the problem in 1980, when a legislative act compelled them to begin testing their water supply for volatile organic compounds. Initial tests showed high concentrations of toxins in the base’s water supply. However, Camp Lejeune administrators ignored recommendations to immediately identify the source of contamination.
For years, the Marine Corps refused to even investigate which of its wells were contaminated, discarding and disregarding warning letters and worrying reports.
When Camp Lejeune finally began testing individual wells in 1983, they quickly pinpointed Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point as the sources of contamination. But instead of shutting down the facilities, they continued to use them until 1987.
Congressional Support for Veterans Injured By Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune
The Marine Corps knew that servicemen and their families were being injured by contaminated water at Camp Lejeune as early as 1980.
However, even after Camp Lejeune’s administrators permanently closed the Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point facilities, they did little to notify Marines and their loved ones that they may be in danger.
While the Department of Veterans Affairs provides medical care for Marines with presumptive VOC-related conditions, medical care alone cannot compensate servicepeople and their families for the suffering they have endured. In a rare display of bipartisanship, legislators have collaborated to create potential relief packages for Camp Lejeune survivors.