Individuals who lived or worked at Camp LeJeune, the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp located in North Carolina, may be entitled to file a civil claim under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act which was part of the PACT Act signed by President Biden on August 10, 2022. Injury claims must be filed within two years of that date and all cases will be handled by the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Who is Eligible to File a Claim Under the Justice Act?
In order to file a claim under the Justice Act, an individual must meet the following criteria:
- Lived or worked at Camp LeJeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987.
- Exposed to the contaminated water and suffered injuries due to such exposure.
Veterans who lived or worked at the base, their families and civilians may be eligible to file a claim. In addition, claims can be filed on behalf of those individuals whose death is believed to be related to such exposure. Such claims are referred to as “wrongful death” claims.
What is the Procedure for Filing a Claim?
A special claim form has been developed to initiate the claim process under the Justice Act. It is important that the right form be used and correctly completed by the claimant; otherwise, it will be rejected and the process must start again. Claims must be filed within two years of the date the PACT Act was signed by President Biden. If a claim is denied, then a civil lawsuit can be filed in the designated federal court noted above.
What Type of Evidence is Needed to File a Claim?
Currently, evidence does not need to be submitted in order to file a claim, but one should expect to be required to submit the following type of information once the claim process has started:
- Proof of residence at Camp Lejeune
- Military service records documenting dates and locations served
- Medical records and diagnoses
- Medical bills
- Travel records
- Health care information
- Death certificate if a wrongful death claim is being pursued
- Proof of any VA benefits, including disability benefits, being received
It is important for potential claimants to be able to reconstruct their time at Camp Lejeune. The address of a base residence, location or name of a duty station on base, the school on base attended by family members, recreational areas on base that were used, and how the claimant used water supplied on base (e.g., drinking, bathing, food preparation). The names of friends or fellow service members on base could also be useful. Letters to or from family or friends documenting the loss of a child or the experience of dealing with one’s own health issues would be worth gathering if still available.
What Type of Medical Conditions Might Qualify Under the Justice Act?
Medical conditions that could be related to exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune include cancer (such as breast, kidney, and lung cancer, for example), neurological disorders (such as Parkinson’s disease or ALS), miscarriages, female infertility, and birth defects. Obviously, this list is not exhaustive and some conditions might be easier to prove than others. Keep in mind that a diagnosis that is not on a list of representative conditions may still be worth pursuing.
What if I am Already Receiving VA Benefits for Exposure at Camp Lejeune?
If you are currently receiving benefits due to a medical condition related to exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, you can still file a claim under the Justice Act for that condition. If the claim is ultimately resolved in your favor, the government will offset your Justice Act settlement against the benefits you received in the past which are directly related to such exposure. For example, if a veteran has been awarded service-connected disability benefits for stomach cancer due to exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, he can still file a claim under the Justice Act for stomach cancer. If his claim is successful, then an offset will be calculated for the disability benefits received for stomach cancer in the past. No other disability benefits will be included in the offset. Thus, if he also received benefits for tinnitus, hearing loss, and a knee injury, there would be no offset against those benefits as a result of a successful claim for stomach cancer under the Justice Act.
If you or someone you know may meet the criteria outlined above, start gathering the type of proof needed to pursue a claim. Then contact us at 239-945-0808 or on our website at www.avardlaw.com to discuss the claim. Keep in mind that this is brand-new legislation and procedural issues are still being designed and implemented by the court in an effort to make the process as efficient as possible. In the meantime, Avard Law Offices is prepared to assist you in filing Justice Act claims.