Camp Lejeune is a U.S. Marine Corps base in Jacksonville, North Carolina. It was home to thousands of military families and personnel for over four decades. However, over the years, it has been discovered that the water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with toxic chemicals, resulting in numerous health problems for those exposed to it.
The Camp Lejeune water contamination has been linked to leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and many other cancers and illnesses. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that as many as one million people may have been exposed to the tainted water at Camp Lejeune.
In response to the health problems associated with the contaminated water, numerous lawsuits have been filed against the U.S. government, the Marine Corps, and other parties involved. These lawsuits seek compensation for the health effects caused by the toxic water, as well as for the failure of the government and military to warn those living on the base about the contamination.
Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune
From the 1950s to the 1980s, the water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with a range of toxic chemicals, including benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), vinyl chloride and perchloroethylene (PCE). These chemicals were used in various activities on the base, including cleaning military equipment and training facilities.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that the contamination was discovered. In 1982, the Marine Corps identified two on-base water treatment facilities contaminated with TCE and PCE. However, the military did not immediately inform those living on the base about the contamination, leaving them at risk of exposure for years.
The contamination of the water at Camp Lejeune resulted from a combination of factors, including leaks from storage tanks, spills, and improper disposal of chemicals. The military did not properly monitor the water quality on the base, nor did it take steps to remediate the contamination once it was discovered.
Break Down of Toxic Chemicals at Camp Lejeune
Benzene, TCE, vinyl chloride, and PCE are all toxic chemicals that have been linked to a range of health problems. Benzene is a known carcinogen that can cause leukemia, while TCE and PCE are linked to several cancer types. Studies on these chemicals have found evidence supporting a link to many other illnesses and conditions, such as breast cancer, miscarriage, eye defects, and more.
Benzene was a main ingredient in solvents used at Camp Lejeune for maintenance activities such as degreasing metal parts and cleaning machinery. TCE and PCE were used as degreasing agents and as a dry-cleaning solvent. Vinyl chloride was predominantly used to produce polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which produces plastic products. All four chemicals are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can quickly evaporate into the air, leading to potential exposure through inhalation.
VA Disability Benefits
In 2017, the Department of Veterans Affairs ruled that veterans, National Guard members, and former reservists diagnosed with one of the associated diseases and who served at Camp Lejeune for no less than 30 days are entitled to VA benefits. The presumptive service connection gives eligible reservists and National Guard members veteran status for entitlement to some VA benefits.
Research has indicated a connection between the following ailments and exposure to toxins in the Camp Lejeune water supply and MCAS New River during this period. Because of this, several conditions are considered presumptive:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
Eligibility requirements for Veterans, Reservists, and National Guard members affected by toxic chemical exposure at Camp Lejeune are as follows:
- Must have served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River, North Carolina, for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
- Must not have received a dishonorable discharge.
- Must have a diagnosis of one or more of the eight presumptive illnesses.
Evidence needed when applying for one or more of the presumptive conditions for Camp Lejeune include:
- Military records showing that the veteran served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for at least 30 days between the above dates.
- Medical records showing the veteran has one or more of the Camp Lejeune presumptive conditions.
Veterans who meet the service requirements may also be eligible to enroll in VA health care. Additional benefits may be available for family members who qualify.
Camp Lejune Toxic Water Lawsuit
In August of 2022, the government passed the PACT Act, which included a provision known as the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, which allows affected individuals to file a claim with the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy’s Tort Claims Unit (TCU) and to refile previously denied Camp Lejeune claims.
Filing a lawsuit in addition to applying for VA benefits can be beneficial for several reasons:
- VA benefits may not cover all the damages incurred by exposure to toxic chemicals, such as lost wages, pain and suffering, and medical expenses not covered by the VA. A lawsuit can seek compensation for these damages.
- VA benefits may take a long time to be approved and may not fully compensate for the harm suffered. A lawsuit can help to expedite the process and obtain a more significant compensation award.
- A lawsuit can hold responsible parties accountable for their negligence and ensure that they take steps to prevent similar harm from occurring in the future.
The contaminated drinking water profoundly impacted the lives of thousands of military families and personnel who worked and lived at Camp Lejeune. The failure of the government and military to properly monitor the water quality and warn those living on the base about the contamination has resulted in numerous health problems and lawsuits. It is essential that those affected by the toxic water at Camp Lejeune receive the compensation they deserve and that steps are taken to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
Are You Getting the Benefits You Deserve?
If you have been denied benefits for toxic exposure claims, set up a free consultation with the Cameron Firm, PC, to speak with an experienced VA attorney. Contact us today at (800) 861-7262 or fill out the contact box below. We are here to represent veterans nationwide.
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