Over the last few months, there has been a lot of focus on The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, which is part of the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. Signed into law in August of this year, it was designed to compensate the individuals harmed by exposure to toxic chemicals in the water supply at the Camp Lejeune base.
What is interesting to note, however, is that while much of the media’s attention has been focused on Veterans and their family’s benefits from this legislation, there is little information about how it impacts the thousands of contractor personnel and their loved ones, who were also on the base during the affected periods.
How This Bill Can Help Everyone at the Base
“An individual, including a veteran (as defined in section 101 of title 38, United States Code), or the legal representative of such an individual, who resided, worked, or was otherwise exposed (including in utero exposure) for not less than 30 days during the period beginning on August 1, 1953, and ending on December 31, 1987, to water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, that was supplied by, or on behalf of, the United States may bring an action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to obtain appropriate relief for harm that was caused by exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune.”
Section 804 – Federal Cause of Action Relating to Water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
On August 10, 2022, President Biden signed The Camp Lejeune Justice Act, designed to compensate the people harmed by exposure to toxic chemicals in the water supplies at Camp Lejeune from 1956 to 1987.
The legislation extended the window to file a claim by two years (August 2024), making it possible for those affected to file lawsuits against the federal government.
It is important to note that the compensation, according to the acts verbiage above, extend to everyone on the base who were affected by toxic water. Even if you aren’t eligible for certain VA benefits, you could still be eligible for help. As long as you were on base between August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987, and spent at least thirty consecutive days in a contaminated area, you are eligible to pursue legal action. This includes if you are an independent contractor.
Effects on Civilians and Their Families
Water was provided to Camp Lejeune by several sources. Two of those, the Hadnot Point and Tarawa Terrace water plants, were both contaminated. It took many years for these plants and distribution systems to be decontaminated. Meanwhile, thousands upon thousands of people were exposed to dangerous levels of toxic chemicals.
At any given point during the contamination, several thousand civilian employees and their families were residing on the Camp Lejeune military installation. As a result, many employees were also exposed to these toxic chemicals.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, approximately seventy harmful chemicals were detected at unsafe levels in Camp Lejeune water sources. Identified carcinogens included benzene, vinyl chloride, Tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and Tetrachloroethylene (PCE).
Exposure to these carcinogens could cause effects on the immune system, reproductive system, liver, kidneys, and central nervous system.
In pregnant women, PCE exposure was associated with premature births and impacted fetal development. In contrast, TCE and benzene exposure contributed to low birth weights and maternal birth weights. It is also linked to some forms of childhood cancers.
Illnesses Specified by VA Covered by PACT Legislation
For Veterans and their families, there is a list of medical benefits and reimbursement conditions. These include:
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal Cancer
- Female Infertility
- Hepatic steatosis
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Renal toxicity
While civilians do not presently get care through the VA for conditions related to exposure to contaminated Camp Lejeune water, it is important to note the possible adverse effects when considering filing a lawsuit against the federal government. This list is also not extended to all the reported contaminate exposure conditions.
How to File a Claim
To be eligible to file a claim, you must have lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for thirty consecutive days, from August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987.
Suppose you believe you or a loved one have been harmed by toxic exposure from contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. In that case, you must contact a lawyer immediately. There are somewhat complicated eligibility requirements. It takes time to gather evidence and information to support your claim, especially since the exposure happened long ago. There is also only a two-year period available to file, which ends in August 2024.
Even if you don’t have a current diagnosis, there still may be potential for an illness to develop. Drinking water at the base could have serious consequences. The PACT Act gives a path to claim relief from damages, not only for Veterans and their families but also contractor personnel and their families.
Awards for damages could be considered for:
- Health care
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Declining enjoyment of life and earning capacity
What to Look For in a Camp Lejeune Lawyer
Before committing to a law firm, be sure they:
- Have experience working with those exposed to toxins on military bases
- Are accredited and able to practice law in North Carolina
- Have experience and extensive knowledge of this bill and how it impacts civilians
How can Hill & Ponton Help You?
Hill & Ponton has decades of experience helping military veterans and their families with Veteran disability law cases. We know Veterans and understand the medical evidence needed to fight for VA appeals.
The difference in litigation for Camp Lejeune toxic exposure survivors and family members is that the claim filed in this suit will not be a VA disability claim; it is trial law.
For that reason, Hill & Ponton has selected Bell Legal Group to co-counsel with us after an extensive vetting process. By serving as co-counsel for your case with The Bell Law Group, our experience collecting evidence to support your claim with their experience with trial law, provides an all-star team that you can trust in fighting for you and your family’s best interest.
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