When it was signed into law, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was, undoubtedly, a sliver of hope for veterans and family members who developed serious illnesses due to having drunk contaminated water at the military base during the last century.
By virtue of this legislation, everyone who lived at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and was diagnosed with a disease related to toxic water exposure is entitled to financial compensation from the government.
However, the pace at which these claims are being processed is very slow, and receiving compensation in a timely fashion is of utmost importance for many sick veterans and family members, as the cost of treatment can be very high. For this reason, many Camp Lejeune water contamination victims who filed a claim die before they can benefit from the money they deserve.
"A lot of these people are elderly and they're up there in age. Is this going to legally just take so long that most of us are dead before anything happens?" said Mike Partain, a man from Florida born at Camp Lejeune in 1968 and diagnosed with breast cancer, a very rare disease in men, in 2007.
It is estimated that 20% of the Camp Lejeune claims are wrongful death claims, which includes those that started off as such and those that turned into wrongful death claims due to sluggish processing. Although Congress passed a law giving Camp Lejeune victims two years to sue in federal court, the process of compensating the thousands of people impacted by the contamination is moving at a snail's pace. The Navy and Marine Corps, which have denied any responsibility for causing health problems at the military base since the contamination was discovered in 1982, have taken no action on over 20,000 damage claims after the legislation was signed into law on August 10, 2022.
A claims resolution process has not yet been set, which is very disappointing, as Congress' original intent was that they should do so immediately. The Navy choosing not to pay any of the claimants as soon as possible is helping nobody and is just creating a litigation backlog. Roughly 200 lawsuits have been filed by Camp Lejeune veterans and family members since the six-month deadline for Navy action on claims filed in August that expired in February, and the number is growing every day as other claims unanswered by the Navy go into federal court. The Navy JAG office responded that it "adjudicates claims in accordance with applicable law."
While many veterans have already benefited from the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, lawsuits brought by water contamination victims are proceeding at a crawl and, increasingly, becoming wrongful death claims. Several weeks ago, the four district judges of the Eastern District of North Carolina finally named a leadership team of seven lawyers who are representing plaintiffs. The team will work together to take certain bellwether cases to trial and to propose settlement levels for specific medical conditions related to toxic exposure at the military base. Nevertheless, the Navy says it has initiated processing of more than 17,000 claims - out of over 93,000 - received under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, and it is working to expedite the process with more staffing and new IT solutions.
With over 35 years of experience in reviewing toxic exposure and personal injury claims, our team of professionals is ready to offer you quality assistance if you spent time at Camp Lejeune and now struggle with a disease. The only documents necessary are your military records or proof of your stay at the military base and your medical records. Eligible veterans and family members will be put in touch with a reliable, trustworthy attorney.