Many of us have noticed the recent influx of advertisements and solicitations from law firms seeking veterans to file lawsuits related to water contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. That’s because the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, which was signed into law as part of the larger Honoring Our PACT Act in August, gives individuals—notably veterans and their dependents—the ability to file a civil suit against the federal government for harm suffered as a result of the dumping of toxic chemicals in the groundwater at Camp Lejeune from Aug. 1, 1953, to Dec. 31, 1987.
DAV encourages all veterans to take the most appropriate actions for their individual situations. Below is information about existing federal benefits for victims of contaminated water at Camp Lejeune to consider when deciding whether to file a lawsuit with a private attorney.
First, you should know the PACT Act doesn’t change existing eligibility for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits for those affected by toxic water at Camp Lejeune. VA already established presumptive service-connection for conditions related to toxic water at Camp Lejeune in 2017 for veterans, or former reservists or members of the National Guard, who had at least 30 consecutive or nonconsecutive days of service there between Aug. 1, 1953, to Dec. 31, 1987. Those conditions are kidney cancer, liver cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, adult leukemia, multiple myeloma, Parkinson’s disease, aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes, and bladder cancer.
In addition, the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 previously authorized medical care for veterans and their families who were exposed to contaminated water while stationed in Camp Lejeune. If you believe that you or family members may be eligible for VA benefits or health care due to service at Camp Lejeune, you can contact a DAV service officer who is able to assist you with filing a claim. To reach your nearest service officer, please visit benefitsquestions.org.
With enactment of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act earlier this year, qualified individuals now also have the right to file a lawsuit against the U.S. government to recover monetary damages for harm caused by the contaminated water.
However, if you are awarded monetary benefits by the court in a lawsuit, the award will be reduced by the amount of any VA disability compensation or other benefit provided to you based on your exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. This could reduce the amount of the award you actually receive from the court, but it would not affect your eligibility to apply for or receive VA benefits or health care.
While there are still some unanswered questions in regard to lawsuits related to toxic water at Camp Lejeune, rest assured that DAV is monitoring the evolving situation and will continue providing updates as necessary.
UPDATE: On Dec. 6, 2022, the VA issued this guidance regarding Camp Lejeune water contamination.