If I’m Already Receiving VA Benefits, Why Would I File A Lawsuit In South Carolina Under The Camp Lejeune Justice Act?

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Answer

Although you may be receiving disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 allows affected individuals to recover for economic and noneconomic damages, including pain and suffering and lost earnings, which are typically not available through the VA. 

For years, reports show that the VA rejected many of the disability claims related to illnesses and conditions caused by toxic chemicals in Camp Lejeune’s water system. Filing a claim under the Act and seeking compensation through a lawsuit does not exclude you from also seeking disability benefits for conditions related to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune. 

Additionally, it is important to remember that VA benefits are not available to civilians, vendors and others exposed to the toxic chemicals. That’s why it’s advisable to talk to an experienced attorney about filing a lawsuit.

Eligibility For Filing A Claim

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act, signed into law on Aug. 10, 2022, created a $6 billion fund to compensate Camp Lejeune water contamination victims. To be eligible to file a lawsuit, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You were exposed to the contaminated water for 30 days or more between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987. The days do not have to be consecutive.
  • You can prove that you lived, worked or were exposed to hazardous chemicals during that timeframe through service, residency or work/school records.
  • You have medical records containing a diagnosis of a presumptive or non-presumptive illness or disorder associated with the contamination.

Because the Act contains certain filing deadlines, it’s critical to contact an attorney as soon as possible if you believe you meet these requirements.

Toxic Substances Sickened Thousands For Decades

Service members, their families and others were exposed to hazardous chemicals at Camp Lejeune for at least 34 years. The contaminated water system served barracks, schools, offices and the base hospital. The chemicals included:

  • Benzene
  • Vinyl chloride
  • Perchloroethylene (PCE)
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE)

These and other toxic substances endangered the health and lives of Marines living on or off base, family members living on base, civilian workers, visiting vendors, children attending school on base and patients and staff at Camp Lejeune’s hospital.

Presumptive Vs. Non-Presumptive Health Disorders

The VA recognizes so-called “presumptive” conditions linked to the contamination, detailed in the Justice Act. Presumptive means the VA presumes the contamination caused certain diagnosed health conditions. The current list includes:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Liver cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Adult leukemia

However, many people who worked or lived at Camp Lejeune or visited the base suffer from various other illnesses and disorders not included on the presumptive list. That does not disqualify them from filing a lawsuit. According to scientific studies, other serious conditions, including several types of cancers, congenital disabilities and neurological disorders, may also have been caused by the toxic water contamination. These include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Miscarriage
  • Fetal death
  • Cardiac defects
  • Infertility
  • Brain damage
  • Hodgkin’s disease

If the contamination caused your illness or you lost a loved one who spent time at Camp Lejeune, you may be eligible to file a claim and should speak with an experienced attorney to discuss your individual case. A good start is to gather information, such as your medical history and proof that you were on the base during the specified period.

How To File A Claim

The first step under the Act is filing an administrative claim with the judge advocate general (JAG) of the Navy’s Tort Claims Unit (TCU) in Norfolk, Virginia. If the TCU denies the claim or fails to issue a determination within a specified time period, injured individuals can file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. All cases are currently handled as individual claims, and this is not a class action lawsuit. Victims are eligible for compensation for economic and noneconomic damages, including:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost earnings and earning capacity
  • Disabilities
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of companionship, enjoyment of life and consortium

Because of the anticipated volume of claims, if you believe you may have a case, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. 

Why Should I Consider A Lawsuit?

For more than three decades, it is estimated that as many as 1 million people were exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, including thousands of South Carolinians. Tens of thousands have died or continue to suffer from illnesses and conditions caused by harmful chemicals.

Some people may worry that they cannot afford to pay a lawyer. However, attorneys at the Simmons Law Firm are only paid if you have a successful outcome. There are no upfront fees. If you believe you meet the requirements outlined in the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, it’s advisable to schedule a free consultation so we can evaluate your case and answer any questions you may have.

Because the Act contains certain deadlines, taking steps as soon as possible is essential. As the former U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina, I have extensive knowledge of the federal court system. Most importantly, for over 30 years, I have helped  South Carolinians receive fair and just compensation for injuries sustained through no fault of their own.

Disclaimer:

The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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