Veterans, family members, and civilian employees stationed at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base in North Carolina between 1953 and 1987 have the right to file claims due to potential health risks posed by contaminated water. The wells on the base reportedly had volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which may have caused cancer and other debilitating illnesses for many people. Unfortunately, the wells were not shut down until after contamination was already found. It is even more disheartening that military base commanders allegedly allowed the use of these tainted waters despite contractors’ warnings. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), up to 900,000 veterans and their families were exposed to toxic substances for more than three decades. This calls for action and acknowledgment by the VA, which it is actively providing.
On August 10th, 2022, President Biden authorized the PACT Act, which included the Camp Lejeune Justice Act—offering victims of water contamination at the base a new route to justice. This act allows claimants to seek compensation from the federal government despite North Carolina’s statute of limitations having long expired over ten years before. To be eligible for such reparations and restitution, applicants must ultimately prove they lived within the boundaries of the affected military bases for a minimum period of thirty days between 1953-1987. This can be done through a variety of forms and documents, including military records, discharge papers, and any official correspondence received from the base.
Protecting the rights of veterans and their families has been a priority for the VA, but there are still times when it may be beneficial to seek assistance from a legal representative. Experienced attorneys can provide valuable advice and resources on filing claims, appealing denials, and obtaining maximum compensation awards.
Settlements and Compensation for Damages
Exposure to even small amounts of VOCs over a long period can cause severe health problems that may not manifest until years later. Some of these diseases include various forms of cancer, male infertility, and prenatal health issues for pregnant women. The VA is actively processing applications for compensation, and if approved, veterans or their families can be entitled to a range of benefits including disability compensation, health care, and reimbursement for medical expenses related to the Camp Lejeune water contamination. This applies to both direct and indirect healthcare costs, so it is important to keep all relevant records and receipts. Generally, the VA will award claimants based on a “pre-existing rating” that best fits their circumstances following the degree of disability caused by the exposure.
While it cannot undo the damages caused by the water contamination, it is a great relief that victims of this tragedy have been offered a route to justice and reparations through the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. Whether you choose to go it alone or seek help from an attorney, it is essential to know your rights and remain persistent in filing for the compensation you are entitled to. Doing so can provide peace of mind and much-needed financial security to those affected by this unfortunate event. Keeping track of all these details can help you in the long run.
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