Many veterans and active service members, as well as their families in West Virginia and elsewhere, are finally receiving the justice and financial compensation they deserve for injuries related to exposure to toxic chemicals in the water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune during the years between 1953 and 1987.
Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville North Carolina encompasses 246 square miles used for military training. The camp’s 14 miles of coastline make it ideal for amphibious assault training while two nearby ports make it a strategic location for fast deployment. Unfortunately, many military personnel members and their families suffered cancers and other illnesses now linked to toxic levels of unsafe chemicals in the water used at Camp Lejeune and its family housing units. Now, thanks to the PACT ACT of 2022, and specifically its division, Justice for Camp Lejeune, citizens of West Virginia who’ve suffered or died from conditions presumed related to water toxicity at Camp Lejeune can receive fair compensation for medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.
What Happened at Marine Corp Base Camp Lejeune?
At least 900,000 military personnel and family members, as well as civilians and retired military members spent time stationed at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987. The base’s beaches and port proximity have made it a key location for training since its construction ramped up after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. By the end of World War II, the camp was the most advanced base of its kind in the US and included recreational beaches, a golf course, a stadium, stocked fish ponds, a bird sanctuary, and 9 movie theaters, making the facility a top location of choice for military personnel and their families.
Unfortunately, more advanced water testing during the early 1980s revealed that the two water treatment facilities supplying the base and nearby family housing areas with water for drinking, cooking, and bathing contained toxic levels of solvents, including trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE). These highly toxic chemicals were found in the camp’s water at 3000 times the level considered safe exposure limits for humans. TCE is a known human carcinogen, and toxicologists consider PCE as a likely carcinogen as well as a chemical with proven negative effects on the nervous system, cognitive processing, and color vision. Benzene and Vinyl Chloride were also present in the water.
A nearby dry cleaning service’s inefficient waste management system leaked toxic solvents into the following locations in Camp Lejeune through the Terrawa Terrace Water Treatment Plant:
- The Camp Lejeune Military Base,
- Tarawa Terrace Family Housing,
- Knox Trailer Park.
Leaking underground chemical storage tanks contaminated a second water treatment plant located at Hadnot Point, compromising water at the following Camp Lejeune Locations:
- Mainside Barracks,
- Hospital Point
- Midway Park
- Berkley Manor
- Paradise Point Housing
People working and living in those locations in and around Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 ingested and washed with water containing highly toxic levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and may have gone on to suffer from serious negative health outcomes.
Justice for Camp Lejeune and the PACT ACT
In 2022, the Biden Administration signed into law the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act or PACT ACT, to make it easier for veterans and active duty military personnel to receive health care benefits and compensation for illnesses linked to toxic chemical exposure in the military including from burn pits in Iraq — an exposure which may have caused the brain cancer that took the life of President Biden’s son, Beau Biden. As part of the PACT ACT, the list of cancers and illnesses associated with toxic exposure — including those at Camp Lejeune — were designated as “presumptive illnesses,” meaning they are now automatically presumed as caused by the exposure so victims no longer have to prove the link — a difficult and sometimes impossible prospect.
Thanks to the PACT ACT and Justice for Camp Lejeune, victims who were previously prevented from filing cases against the military base by North Carolina’s Statute of Repose, which restricts the right to file lawsuits beyond 6 years past the exposure, are now able to have their cases heard and receive long-overdue compensation for illnesses such as cancer that often develop many years after the initial exposure.
Are You or a Loved One in West Virginia Eligible for Compensation Under the Justice for Camp Lejeune Act?
If your military service duties or those of a loved one included at least 30 cumulative days living or working at Camp Lejeune or nearby MCAS New River at any time between August 1953 and December 1957 and you did not separate from the military with a dishonorable discharge, you may qualify for compensation if you or the loved one suffered one of the following presumptive conditions:
- Adult Leukemia
- Myelodysplastic syndromes including Aplastic Anemia
- Multiple myeloma
- Kidney cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Liver Cancer
- Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma
- Parkinson’s Disease
Women who were pregnant at Camp Lejeune and suffered miscarriages, stillbirths, or bore children with birth defects may also qualify for healthcare and compensation.
West Virginia residents who were stationed at, lived, worked at, or regularly visited Camp Lejeune may need the help of skilled, experienced attorneys to navigate through the necessary process for receiving the justice and compensation they’ve earned.
While many law firms are currently taking claims for these cases, it is important that you hire an attorney near you. Many firms will sign cases and immediately sell them off to other lawyers in other states. With a West Virginia lawyer handling your claim, you’ll be sure that your attorney understands you and your needs and provides regular, honest communication about your cases.
Depending upon how you were exposed, a claim may require the following evidence:
- Marriage license, birth certificate, or adoption papers proving a relationship to a veteran on active duty at Camp Lejune for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987
- Documents such as housing records, utility bills, military orders, or tax forms proving that you lived at the camp, military housing, or MCAS New River, for at least 30 days during the relevant time period
- Medical records showing that you or the loved one had one or more of the presumptive conditions
- Evidence that you’ve paid healthcare expenses for one or more of the presumptive medical conditions.
A skilled attorney can help you with the legalities so you can focus on your own health and recovery instead of shouldering the additional burden yourself.
Even veterans who don’t have one of the presumptive illnesses may still receive benefits if a knowledgeable attorney helps to prove a link between their illness and the veteran’s stay at Camp Lejeune by gathering evidence to support the link.
Now, at last, is the time for you to act if you believe you qualify for compensation under the Justice for Camp Lejeune Act.