Camp Lejeune is a United States Marine Corps base in Jacksonville, North Carolina. It has been operational since 1942 and has faced water contamination issues due to harmful chemicals, such as VOCs and PFAS. These contaminants posed severe health risks to those residing on the base during that period.
During the contamination period, people who lived, worked, or visited Camp Lejeune got infected by the contaminated water. If you find yourself among those individuals, you could be susceptible to significant health issues. You might also possess legal grounds for action against the Marine Corps.
In this guide, we aim to empower those impacted by contamination with essential awareness and knowledge about their situation.
1. Historical Context
Camp Lejeune has a rich military history, serving as a vital training ground for Marines over the decades. Yet, during the period spanning from the 1950s to the 1980s, the base grappled with a significant environmental crisis. The water provided to military personnel and their families for drinking was tainted with hazardous chemicals.
One of the primary contaminants was trichloroethylene (TCE), a carcinogenic solvent, and perchloroethylene (PCE), a dry-cleaning fluid. These contaminants infiltrated the groundwater as a result of improper disposal methods and leaks from subterranean storage tanks. Contact with these harmful substances has been associated with various serious health conditions. These included various forms of cancer, birth defects, and other chronic illnesses.
The contamination affected tens of thousands of military personnel, their families, and civilians living on the base during the contamination period. DrugWatch published that the CDC estimated that approximately 900,000 individuals may have been exposed to contaminated drinking water.
This alarming figure underscores the scale of the issue and highlights the need for awareness, accountability, and action.
Investigations have revealed that the contamination persisted for years before it was acknowledged in the early 1980s.
2. Identification of Victims
Not everyone exposed to the contaminated water at the base will develop health problems. However, if you lived, worked, or visited the base between 1953 and 1987, you are at increased risk for developing various health conditions.
There are several ways to identify Camp Lejeune victims. One way is to look at military records. If you served at the base during the time that the water was contaminated, you are considered to be a victim. The Veterans Affairs Department recognizes you as a potential victim if you lived on the base for 30 days during the contamination period.
Another way to identify the victims is to look at medical records. You may be a victim if you have been diagnosed with a health condition linked to VOC exposure. According to TorHoerman Law, common health conditions linked to VOC exposure include cancer, birth defects, neurological disorders, and kidney disease.
If you have doubts about whether you qualify as a Camp Lejeune victim, it is advisable to reach out to a legal expert. A seasoned attorney can assess your records and assist you in evaluating your eligibility for pursuing a compensation claim.
3. Legal Remedies and Compensation
Individuals who experienced exposure to the polluted water at Camp Lejeune may have legal options at their disposal. The primary recourse for many such victims is to initiate a claim in accordance with the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2012. This legislation empowers victims to seek compensation for medical costs, income loss, and emotional distress.
To pursue a CLJA claim, proof of exposure to the tainted water for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987 is mandatory.
Victims can file claims against the government for damages resulting from negligence or wrongful actions of government employees under FTCA. This encompasses claims pertaining to the polluted water distribution at the base. It offers victims the option to pursue either individual or class-action lawsuits against private companies held accountable for the contamination.
The Camp Lejeune contaminated water lawsuit is a class-action lawsuit seeking compensation for individuals who suffered health consequences due to water contamination. It involves multiple claims against the U.S. government, military officials, and private contractors responsible for managing the base’s water supply.
4. Medical Screening and Health Support
Exposure to contaminated water can lead to severe health issues that may not manifest immediately. Therefore, regular medical screening and access to proper health support are essential to understanding your rights.
Regular medical check-ups and screenings are essential to identify health conditions, like cancer, in their early and more treatable stages. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers healthcare benefits for eligible veterans and family members affected by the contamination. It covers medical treatments related to exposure-related health conditions.
Also, some states have established medical monitoring programs that provide regular health assessments to victims. These programs offer services to detect potential health issues early, even if they haven’t yet displayed symptoms.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reports that in June 2022, the Senate will vote on the Honoring our PACT Act. This legislation is expected to raise deficits by at least $277 billion and increase mandatory spending to $667 billion if approved. The Act seeks to expand health and disability benefits for veterans exposed to hazardous substances during military service.
Victims can safeguard their health by proactively using government support and engaging in monitoring programs for contamination-related health concerns.
5. Advocacy and Community Support
For several reasons, advocacy groups and community support are vital for Camp Lejeune victims. They foster a sense of unity, enabling collective advocacy efforts to amplify voices and advocate for rights more effectively. These groups provide essential resources, information, and legal updates to keep victims informed in navigating the complexities of their situation. Also, collective advocacy can influence policy changes and offer much-needed moral and emotional support.
Some groups also offer financial aid to cover expenses related to the contamination, providing essential assistance to affected individuals.
The victims should explore available advocacy networks and connect with others who have faced similar challenges. Together, you can navigate the complexities of seeking justice while driving positive change for all those affected by this tragedy.
6. Financial Considerations
The camp’s water contamination incident has had a devastating financial impact on the lives of many victims. Many victims have incurred significant medical expenses and have lost income due to health problems.
If you are a victim, there are several financial considerations that you should be aware of. First, you should be aware of the potential for compensation from the government. Even if you are not eligible for government compensation, other financial resources may be available to you. For example, you may be eligible for disability or veterans’ benefits. You may also obtain financial assistance from private organizations or charities.
If you are struggling financially due to the water contamination, it is important to seek help. There are several people, support groups, and resources available to help you.
In the wake of the Camp Lejeune water contamination tragedy, understanding your rights is essential and empowering. As a victim, you deserve justice, support, and the means to safeguard your health and well-being.
Always keep in mind that you’re not facing this journey alone. Armed with information and the guidance of professionals, you can adeptly navigate the intricacies of the contamination matter with confidence. Your rights matter, and your pursuit of justice is a powerful force for change.