Wonderful news for veterans! Camp Lejeune is again on the hot news as the Camp Lejeune Justice Act 2022 is passed by the Senate, and on August 10, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the historic PACT Act into law. The veterans, their families, and the civilian workers who were in the Camp Lejeune military base from 1953 to 1987 are relieved that they can pursue Camp Lejeune lawsuits.
The drinking water at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is safe today. But that was not the case back in the 1950s to 1980s. Water contamination was identified only in the early 1980s, and in the meantime, the people there were exposed to dangerous chemicals for decades.
The most contaminated water purification plants were shut down only in the mid of that decade. Till then, all the service members of the military and the navy, their families, and the civilian workers were exposed to the toxic chemicals from the drinking water supplied to them.
Since the toxic chemical exposure would cause the symptoms after many years, many of the veterans and their families who went away from there were unaware of the impending danger. The news of the water contamination reached them very late in 1999, leaving them in despair.
It is said that around 3.5 million people are affected by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. This is indeed a shocking reality. This blog takes you through the events spinning around the water contamination, the legal battle of the veterans to get their reparation, the latest news on Camp Lejeune water contamination 2022, and the prospective in filing Camp Lejeune lawsuits.
Table of Contents
Latest Update on Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) Claims
The US Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) has posted rules for filing Camp Lejeune cases on the website in response to the surge of Camp Lejeune claims filed under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. Before filing a civil case, the plaintiffs are anticipated to file under the JAG Tort Claims Unit. JAG has prepared a CLJA claim form that will be necessary to bring a civil Camp Lejeune suit in federal court.
To know more about the directions and regulations, visit the JAG navy website.
A jury’s award in a Camp Lejeune claim is limited. This is because there are no economic or noneconomic damages under North Carolina law.
Veterans whose disability claims were previously dismissed need not be anxious if they have a viable Camp Lejeune claim. According to a report provided by the Department of Defense, the Veteran’s Administration might well have wrongfully dismissed over 21,000 VA compensation applications connected to the Camp Lejeune water contamination.
They are entitled to compensation if they file Camp Lejeune cases under the CLJA. The CLJA also empowers veterans who have received VA benefits to sue Camp Lejeune.
The Navy is likely to use the administrative procedure to find strong, genuine claims before making an aggressive attempt to settle those claims for fair value.
Don’t expect quick payouts from Camp Lejeune toxic water lawsuits https://t.co/bP4shmFHRO
— G Hedgepeth (@GordonRHedgepet) September 1, 2022
History of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
Camp Lejeune is a 246-square-mile United States military training base located in Jacksonville, North Carolina. The base’s 14 miles of beaches make it a popular location for amphibious assault training, and its proximity to two deep-water ports allows for quick deployments.
Camp Lejeune has served as a temporary or permanent home for thousands of military service members and their families since its inception in 1942. It has also served as a residence or workplace for thousands of civilian employees and contractors. Camp Lejeune has its own public water system to provide drinkable water to these Marines and civilians.
Hadnot Point (1942) and Tarawa Terrace (1952) were the two potable water distribution plants historically connected to the Camp Lejeune water contamination. These plants were contaminated by volatile substances like trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), trans-1,2-dichloroethylene (DCE), benzene, and vinyl chloride.
The launch of ABC One-Hour Cleaners, an Off-base dry cleaner across the street from Camp Lejeune, in 1953 triggered the contamination of the dry-cleaning solvents in the water. It was suspected to have contributed to the contamination through incorrect chemical disposal and unintentional leakage. Investigations proved later that these contaminants polluted the Tarawa Terrace drinking water system.
It is reported that in 1979, the Hadnot Point Fuel Farm had a huge fuel leakage. Approximately 20,000 to 30,000 gallons of fuel products were estimated to be leaked during that incident. This was suspected to be the cause of water contamination at the Hadnot Point water system.
In 1972, the Holcomb Boulevard water system started serving the areas covered earlier by the Hadnot Point water system. Though it was not contaminated, its water was sometimes supplemented by the contaminated water from Hadnot Point. Therefore, the people in these areas were exposed to contaminated water even after 1979.
Environmental testing at Camp Lejeune in the 1980s revealed that the water supply to Camp Lejeune residents and employees was alarmingly contaminated. In 1982, the Marine Corps identified that the above-discussed contaminants were at high levels than the EPA standards for safe drinking water. From 1982 to 1984, the Navy took up the initiative to identify the potentially contaminated areas by testing the nearby water wells.
The federal government had shut down the contaminated water wells in Camp Lejeune in 1985. But making the plants completely safe was a herculean task, and so only by the end of 1987, they were able to remove all the contaminants from the water. Though the Safe Drinking Water Act was passed in 1972, only in 1987 the regulations of the Act were published in the Federal Register. The fact that the Navy and the federal government were unaware of the risks of water contamination is something very hard to swallow.
The EPA and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources identified PCE contaminants of concern (COCs) in soil and groundwater in 1989 at levels that posed an unacceptable risk to the public and the environment. The EPA declared the site as Superfund sites, where hazardous chemicals are found in abundance.
According to the CDC report in 1990, PCP was the leading cause of birth defects, death, and injury among Camp Lejeune water contamination victims. Since many miscarriages were reported in the base camp, a study was carried out in 1998 by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which distributed a questionnaire to expectant mothers who resided in the Camp Lejeune facility between 1968 and 1985. The study found that more than 100 pregnancies resulted in kids with cancer or birth abnormalities. This study made the veterans who were unaware of the water contamination since then start relating many of their ailments and their exposure to the chemicals.
Then, after 17 years of the discovery of the water contamination at Camp Lejeune, in 1999, the former service members and the residents were notified of the toxic chemical contamination. The affected families were completely devastated after knowing the cause of their agony.
President George W. Bush signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, H.R. 4986, on January 28, 2008, which mandated that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) create a health survey that would gather personal health information from all individuals who could be identified as exposed to drinking water contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and other volatile organic compounds at Camp Lejeune.
How Dangerous are the Substances in Camp Lejeune Water Plants?
Here, we are going to see the volatile substances that contaminated the Camp Lejeune water plants and their adverse side effects that made the inhabitants suffer.
Trichloroethylene (TCE)- Trichloroethylene is a halocarbon that is frequently used as an industrial solvent. Both acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) inhalation exposure to trichloroethylene can have an impact on a person’s central nervous system (CNS), resulting in symptoms like weakness, numbness, headaches, disorientation, and euphoria. There have also been reports of human liver, renal, immunological, endocrine, and developmental impacts. Recent epidemiological research has been analyzed, and the results show that exposure to trichloroethylene is linked to a number of human cancers, particularly those of the kidney, liver, cervix, and lymphatic system.
Perchloroethylene (PCE) – Perchloroethylene is a chemical used as a cleaning agent, mainly for metal degreasing and dry cleaning. Exposure to tetrachloroethylene may have negative effects on the kidney, liver, immunological system, and hematologic systems, as well as on development and reproduction. Studies of those exposed at work have discovered links to several cancers, including multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and bladder cancer. Tetrachloroethylene has been labeled as possibly harmful to humans by the EPA.
Benzene is a chemical compound that is used to create synthetic fibers, nylon, and resins. Benzene has been demonstrated to alter the chromosomes of bone marrow cells, where new blood cells are produced. These modifications are frequently observed in human leukemia cells.
VC – Vinyl chloride TCE and PCE in groundwater deteriorate over time to become VC. Acute exposure to very high amounts of vinyl chloride has been linked to loss of consciousness, inflammation of the kidneys and lungs, and inhibition of blood coagulation in both humans and animals. Exposure to vinyl chloride is linked to an increased risk of leukemia, brain and lung malignancies, lymphoma, and a rare type of liver cancer called hepatic angiosarcoma.
Evolution of Camp Lejeune Lawsuits and Related Legislation
The first Camp Lejeune lawsuit on water contamination was filed against the U.S. Federal government by Laura Jones in 2009. Her husband was a former Marine, and they lived at Camp Lejeune during the period of 1980-1983. They were using contaminated water during that period. Her allegation was that she acquired non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) from the use of the contaminated water.
In 2012, President Obama brought some relief to the veteran families and the other affected people from Camp Lejeune when he made the “Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012” into law. This helped the victims who served at Camp Lejeune to get healthcare benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs if they were qualified.
In 2017, the Veterans Affairs began to accept Camp Lejeune compensation claims, and they paid many claims which were approved from the $2.2 billion fund allotted to cover such claims in the following five years. However, many eligible veteran victims did not get the much-deserved compensation due to legal impediments because they had to prove that they would have acquired the eight diseases listed by VA to get the benefits.
In 2019, Congress passed the Janey Ensminger Act to assist veterans and their families in receiving healthcare benefits. The victims were relieved as they need not try to prove that their diseases were caused by exposure to contaminated water. They should only prove that they were residing at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987. The main reason that barred the veterans from filing Camp Lejeune lawsuits was North Carolina’s statutes of repose. It prohibits filing claims after a certain period of time has passed following the defendant’s actions. North Carolina is one of the few states in the country with a statute of repose, which prohibits claims against polluters if the contaminating event occurred more than ten years ago.
A substantial step was taken in 2021 when the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was presented before the U.S. Congress. The Act laid out a significant eligibility criterion as the veterans or the service members should have been in the camp between the period of 08/01/1953 and 12/31/1987. They were liable to prove that they were exposed to contaminated water in that period.
After much delay, on 01/25/2022, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act 2022 was presented to the U.S. House of Representatives. After it was passed on 03/03/2022 in the House of Representatives, it was then moved to the Senate for approval. On 06/16/2022, the Senate passed the bill with a majority of 84 to 14. At present, it is at a critical juncture, as it is before the honorable president Joe Biden for his sign. He has already proposed to support the bill.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act in 2022 has a two-year window period from the date of the enactment of the law to take for the victims to gear forward with their Camp Lejeune lawsuits. The veterans, their families, and the civilian workers exposed to the contaminated water during their stay in the camp will be relieved once the Act is passed. Once the Act is officially passed and published, all the veterans and the other affected people who were barred from filing Camp Lejeune lawsuits will be able to proceed with their claims. Even those who have received disability benefits from VA too can get reparation for their medical expenses and other damages.
Updates on Camp Lejeune PACT Act
The legislation was transferred back to the House of Representatives for a “re-vote” due to a ramification in the Senate interpretation of the bill. The PACT Act was re-approved by the House and transferred to the Senate for retrospection, where legal and political judges anticipated it to pass again. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) ended the day on July 25, 2022, after a day of debate over various amendment proposals, by filing a cloture motion to end any further debate over the bill and hasten the vote on final approval.
On the afternoon of July 27, 2022, the Senate rejected a cloture motion to expedite the PACT Act by a vote of 55-42. Cloture is the process by which the Senate can end ongoing debates, amendment proposals, and filibusters in order to force a final vote on a bill. Cloture motions require a 60% vote (60 Yeas) to pass. Veterans’ hopes were severely dashed when 25 Senators who had previously backed the bill voted against the closure resolution. The action is thought to have been motivated by political interference. The difficulties facing the veterans are getting worse as the law is delayed. However, there is still some hope. All of the victims are hoping that the senate will approve the bill before the start of the summer break on August 8, 2022.
Great news for veterans! On August 10, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the historic PACT Act into law. The PACT Act (H.R. 3967) will make veterans eligible for Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) medical care, mental health services, and counseling if they:
- They took part in a toxic exposure risk activity (a qualifying activity that requires a corresponding entry in an exposure tracking record system)
- Served on specified dates and locations
- Deployed to assist with a specific contingency operation.
New legislation opens the door for Marine Veterans to file lawsuits over contaminated water at Camp Lejeune https://t.co/XdOSGjGouS
— RWalker/Founder/CEO WoVets Organization (@WoVets) August 23, 2022
What is Camp Lejeune Justice Act 2022?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act was formed to help the victims of Camp Lejeune water contamination by Congress. Let’s see how it is going to help the veterans and the other victims.
The Act proclaims that the party bringing the case shall bear the burden of establishing one or more connections between the harm and the water at Camp Lejeune. To meet the burden of proof described above, a party must produce evidence demonstrating that the link between exposure to water at Camp Lejeune and the harm is— (a) sufficient to conclude the existence of a causal relationship; or (b) enough to conclude that a causal relationship is at least equally likely.
Any award made under this section to an individual or legal representative of an individual shall be reduced by the amount of any disability award, payment, or benefit provided to the individual or legal representative under-
- Any program administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs under the laws;
- The Medicare program under Social Security Act Title XVIII (42 U.S.C. 1395 et seq.); or
- Title XIX of the Social Security Act’s Medicaid program (42 U.S.C. 1396 et seq.); and
in connection with health care or a disability caused by water exposure at Camp Lejeune.
Dangerous Diseases and the VA Disability Benefits
Veteran’s Affairs has formed a presumptive connection to contaminated water exposure to certain types of diseases. These diseases were scientifically proven to be caused by contaminated water exposure. If the veterans and the other victims acquired these diseases as a result of their exposure to the toxic chemical in the period from 1953 to 1987, they are eligible for compensation.
- Adult lymphoma
- Aplastic anemia
- Liver cancer
- Myelodysplastic diseases
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Renal cancer
- Urethral cancer
As a veteran, if you have any other diseases that you suspect to be related to your exposure, you can confirm that with your physician and then contact an experienced attorney to know the possibilities of a Camp Lejeune lawsuit.
Under the Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, the VA is providing free health care for the following health conditions to the affected veterans. For the affected family members of the service members, VA reimburses the out-of-the-pocket expenses, if any, apart from what is covered by their health care plans.
- Breast cancer
- Disorders of myelogenesis
- Esophageal cancer
- Infertility in women
- Liver toxicity
- Liver steatosis
- Lung cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Multiple myeloma
- Psychological effects
- Renal cancer
- Urethral cancer
The following map shows the benefit coverage area which comes under the VA disability coverage benefits. The veterans, their families, and the workers living in these areas during the contamination period can definitely get the benefits.
You can refer to the ATSDR website for possible diseases that are scientifically proven to be caused by exposure to the contaminated water in Camp Lejeune. It will be useful for you when you move forward with your Camp Lejeune lawsuits.
New Hope of Settlement
With the enactment of the current Camp Lejeune Justice Act, the hopes of many veterans and other people exposed to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune are getting rejuvenated. Many of them are only getting disability benefits to ease the financial burden created by the expensive medications and chemotherapy sessions. When compared to the medical expenses, the disability benefits are like a single morsel to a hungry elephant.
The two-year window period from the enactment of the Justice Act would give a wide hope to the victims who were earlier prevented from pursuing Camp Lejeune lawsuits due to the statutes of repose in the state of North Carolina.
The veterans and the other civilian workers who had lived in Camp Lejeune during the contamination period and later migrated to other places should get an opportunity to pursue the Camp Lejeune lawsuits within the two-year window period. If any of those people are still unaware of the cause of their diseases, they should be notified of the water contamination and the changes in legislation through awareness programs.
Earlier in 2016, Under the Federal Tort Claims Act (28 U.S.C. 2671–2680), an MDL was formed, combining around 850 Camp Lejeune lawsuits brought against the federal government. In the Camp Lejeune litigation, the government was accused of failing to warn about chemical exposure, which resulted in personal injury or wrongful death claims.
The Camp Lejeune MDL was canceled just because North Carolina’s statute of repose (N.C.G.S. 1-52(16)) prevented them from filing Camp Lejeune lawsuits after ten years of their exposure. A new Camp Lejeune class action lawsuit or MDL will enable victims to assert their rights and seek redress now that the justification for the dismissal is likely to be removed by the new legislation.
What Should you do to File Camp Lejeune Lawsuits?
If you or your loved one is exposed to water contamination at Camp Lejeune and undergoing treatment for any disease in the list of diseases discussed earlier, contact a Camp Lejeune attorney to know when and how to proceed with your claim. Your medical records stating the progression of your diseases, proof for residing or staying at Camp Lejeune during the contamination period, the details of the extension of your damages, and the bills for the medical expenses will support your claim as a backbone.
Even if you have lost your loved one to the diseases caused by the contamination, make sure to collect the evidence for their stay at Camp Lejeune and their medical records to proceed with your claim. An experienced attorney can ride you through all the storms and hurricanes of the legal proceedings to help you get your indemnity. He will ransack through your medical records with the help of medical record review services and find valid evidence to rampart your claim.
LezDo techmed is a leading medical record review company that has proved its mettle in the recent mass tort litigations on products like Essure, IVC filters, 3M earplugs, and so on. Being HIPAA compliant, your medical records will be safe in the hands of LezDo.
To sum up,
Finally, the federal government has understood the agonies of the veterans and other victims of the water contamination at Camp Lejeune in bringing the Camp Lejeune Justice Act to the Senate for discussion. The destiny of around 3.5 million victims is at the tip of President Biden’s pen to get the final approval. This itself is equivalent to great success in the attempts of the benefactors and the embattlement of the victims for their sufferings. Let’s hope the Honorable president will sign the bill soon and open the gates of opportunity to the millions who suffered from pursuing Camp Lejeune lawsuits.
Share your thoughts and opinions on the expectant Camp Lejeune lawsuits.