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| Michael P. Ehline

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Health Issues – What You Must Know

Camp Lejeune is a US Marine Corps base on the east coast located in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Currently, it’s part of a combined installation, so it includes the Marine Corps Air Station at New River. Its training facilities are found on the miles of beach between Wilmington and Morehead City with its deep water ports. This base is home to various Marine units, including expeditionary forces.

Between the 1950s and 1980s, military service members stationed at Camp Lejeune were exposed to serious toxic substances in the drinking water. This happened in training and residential areas.

Veterans at Camp Lejeune during that period could have developed specific diseases and could be eligible for disability compensation apart from their traditional VA disability benefits.

These veterans must have been on active duty or reservists during the time and experienced health conditions relating to the Camp Lejeune water contamination.

Schedule a Consultation to Discuss Your Camp Lejeune Claim

Most people turn to their Veterans Affairs office for assistance, and VA health care is improving significantly. However, many health conditions related to the Camp Lejeune water contamination are just coming to light.

Now, people understand that volatile organic compounds are hazardous. They can easily review relevant information online to learn about it. At the time, though, people living on the Marine Corps Camp Lejeune base weren’t aware of the situation.

Your military service shouldn’t leave you with severe health conditions like lung cancer and other adverse health effects. If you were stationed at Camp Lejeune, you’re at an increased risk of developing qualifying health conditions. Paul Ehline Memorial Ride can assist.

I’ve dealt with the Department of Veterans Affairs. After hearing about the tainted water at Camp Lejeune, I want to reach out to those who might have been in contact with it. Please call us to request a consultation and let me learn more about you and your issues.

Contaminated Water Supply at Camp Lejeune Explained

More than 1 million military personnel were stationed at Camp Lejeune, along with their family members, between 1953 to 1987. During that time, military service members, civilians, and people living at the Marine Corps base ingested the contaminated drinking water and even bathed in it.

However, they had no idea the water supply from Camp Lejeune had likely been contaminated with various toxic substances and chemicals from the base’s water treatment facilities and one off-base dry-cleaning business that ran locally in the area.

Primarily, the Hadnot Point and Tarawa Terrace water treatment plants were the most questionable ones at Camp Lejeune. The personnel and family members were exposed to more than 3,000 times the safe limits to these toxic chemicals.

What Did They Find in the Water Supply at Camp Lejeune?

Most people don’t realize that this Camp Lejeune water contamination situation is one of the worst contamination cases ever in US history.

The Marine Corps, Camp Lejeune Base, received water contaminated with VOCs for over three decades.

These included:

  • Degreasers
  • Dry-cleaning agents
  • Heavy machinery chemicals
  • Roughly 70 other toxic chemicals

The ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) thoroughly studied the water contamination at Camp Lejeune to determine its health effects. This agency has now published various pages that detail the links between the many fatal illnesses and health conditions people might face and water contamination from the site.

Now, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the United States government are looking into the matter. They review relevant information as it comes in and realizes that VA health care is more essential now than ever. Those who were subjected to those substances can file a claim to get compensation.

How Did Contaminants Get Into the Water?

The MCAS New River and Camp Lejeune areas were primarily affected. Primarily, the contamination sources were underground storage tanks that leaked and waste disposal sites, but other industrial activities were to blame. It’s estimated that these contaminants in the water supply at Camp Lejeune were there from the 1950s until about February 1985.

What Were These Contaminants at the Marine Corps Air Station?

Volatile organic compounds (VOC)s are the chemicals that caused such water contamination at MCAS New River and Camp Lejeune. Overall, two main VOCs were initially identified at Camp Lejeune, but there was also a degreaser and dry-cleaning solvent.

Later studies showed there were about 70 other chemicals in the water at Camp Lejeune that could or have caused health risks.

Primarily, the most health-hazardous and prevalent contaminants found include:

  • Vinyl chloride
  • Toluene
  • Benzene
  • Trichloroethylene
  • Perchloroethylene
  • Other contaminants

Tetrachloroethylene (PERC or PCE)

Tetrachloroethylene is an industrial chemical, often called PERC or PCE. It’s been used in many applications, such as manufacturing other chemicals, degreasing metal machines, and dry-cleaning fabrics. More recently, studies have linked PERC exposure to the increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, liver cancers, lung cancers, and neurobehavioral effects. Likely, PERC or PCE made its way into the water supply from the dry-cleaning company near the base.

Trichloroethylene (TCE)

Trichloroethylene is used to degrease metal machinery. TCE exposure could cause kidney disease, kidney cancer, cardiac effects, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, liver cancer, and other cancers.

Vinyl Chloride

Vinyl chloride is often used to produce plastic products, such as wire coatings and PVC pipes, and is a colorless gas. Historically, vinyl chloride was even used in products like household consumables, refrigerants, and makeup. Heavy exposure to this vinyl chloride chemical is linked to liver, lung, and other cancers and multiple myeloma.

Benzene

Benzene is considered a carcinogen, an organic compound found in many industrial chemicals. Chronic exposure to this substance is linked to cancer, but there’s also a strong association to AML (acute myeloid leukemia), CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia), and multiple myeloma.

Toluene

Studies indicate that workers exposed to toluene have increased cancers of the esophagus, lung, colon, breast, stomach, and rectum. However, there’s also an increase in Hodgkin’s, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, lympholeukemia, and lymphosarcoma.

Other Contaminants in the Water

The above toxins were measured and had the highest quantities within the water at Camp Lejeune, though other toxins were also found that are very carcinogenic.

Some include pesticides, heavy metals, PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), and others. There might not be any research to connect your particular cancer to toxin exposure, but there might still be a connection after consuming the water at Camp Lejeune.

Is the Contaminated Drinking Water Now Safe?

According to the US Marine Corps, the water at Camp Lejeune is now safe to drink. The water at Camp Lejeune around the base is checked quarterly and has been contaminate-free from March 1987 until today.

Those on active duty currently don’t have to worry about it because the United States government decommissioned this Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in 1999.

Presumptive Conditions Eligible for Benefits

It’s important to understand the scientific and medical evidence from the water at Camp Lejeune. There are lists available to offer updates and notifications. Still, the National Research Council and the federal government now provide a presumptive service connection option for people to get disability benefits after being on the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

VA Benefits – Veteran Presumptive Conditions

The eight conditions listed below are presumptive for veterans, including National Guard members and reservists. These people must have been stationed at Camp Lejeune from August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987, and have lived on the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more (can be non-consecutive).

These conditions include:

  • Adult leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia (or any other myelodysplastic syndromes)
  • Kidney cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Liver cancer
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Scientific and medical evidence indicates that the water at Camp Lejeune was so dangerous that those living or working on the base didn’t have to jump through hoops to get their disability benefits and compensation.

The presumptive service connection means a veteran only has to prove they were stationed at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune during that time frame noted and for the number of days listed to receive their benefits.

You don’t have to show evidence of treatment, condition, or in-service injury. However, you must have a current diagnosis of one of these presumptive service connection conditions to file your claim because of the contaminants in the water.

Family Members and Veterans – Health Care Presumptive Conditions

Because of the health care law set up in 2012 for Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, veterans and their family members may receive free health care for 15 other presumptive conditions through a primary care provider.

Such health problems don’t qualify for the presumptive disability compensation option. However, veterans with these health conditions should file a claim, even if it’s not considered presumptive because of the links to such toxins from the Camp Lejeune water contamination situation.

These conditions include:

  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Miscarriage
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Leukemia
  • Bladder cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Scleroderma
  • Female infertility
  • Renal toxicity
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Kidney cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Esophageal cancer

Family members who have any of the above conditions because of their stay at Camp Lejeune and had to pay out-of-pocket costs for medical care that wasn’t covered through health care, such as deductibles and co-pays, might be eligible for VA reimbursement.

However, they may be required to show base housing records and documentation showing dependent relationship efforts. Sometimes, birth certificate documentation showing the relation to the veteran is necessary or a marriage license.

Qualifying family members can include:

  • The dependent and spouse of the veteran during the appropriate time period
  • Those living on the base for 30+ days between the dates
  • Those whose sponsor served at Camp Lejeune were on active duty for 30+ days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.

This also includes the infants born to pregnant women on the base (in-utero benefits).

The eight presumptive conditions are based on scientific and medical evidence and indicate that Camp Lejeune veterans can get disability compensation immediately because of the contaminants in the water.

They include:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Adult leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia (other myelodysplastic syndromes apply)
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Liver cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

What’s It All Mean for Veterans and Families?

The final rule, VA Rule 38 CFR 3, became effective March 14, 2017, and added certain diseases associated with contaminated water found at Camp Lejeune. This rule includes National Guard members and former reservists who were on active duty at the base for 30 or more days during this presumptive period.

Currently, there aren’t provisions available for the seven non-presumptive conditions for veterans to get disability compensation, but that doesn’t mean they can’t file a claim to receive compensation.

The difference here is that veterans and family members must submit medical evidence showing a link to the toxins in the contaminated water and the disability, which isn’t required for the eight presumptive health conditions.

Claims filed within a year of the rule or pending should have an effective date of the claim or ruling, whichever was earlier, in accordance with the VA. Therefore, veterans who filed claims before March 13, 2018, can have their claims be retroactive to March 14, 2017.

Lawsuit Updates for Camp Lejeune

Keeping up with the information regarding contaminated water supplies at Camp Lejeune is important. There has been sufficient scientific evidence indicating the health effects of service members and the water supplies at Camp Lejeune. This service connection suggests that because of those harmful chemicals, you might have multiple myeloma, breast cancer, kidney cancer, renal toxicity, neurobehavioral effects, liver disease, and other myelodysplastic syndromes.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is stepping up its game. It has listed covered condition requirements for certain diseases that could cause neurobehavioral effects, breast cancer, and renal toxicity, among other things, during that time period.

June 24, 2022

Currently, the PACT Act is on hold for its final passage because lawmakers are working out the blue-slip objection from the House. It requested that the Senate remove a provision related to Camp Lejeune.

June 16, 2022

The Senate has passed the Honoring our PACT Act, including the already-created Camp Lejeune Act. Once it’s signed into law, it should allow the veterans exposed to the contaminated water found at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River to file lawsuits against the federal government.

President Joe Biden stated on June 16 that he urged the House to pass the bill swiftly so he could sign it into law immediately.

May 2022

Legislators had announced a bipartisan agreement to create comprehensive legislation delivering all veterans and future generations exposed to toxic chemicals their earned health care and disability benefits under Veterans Affairs for the first time in history.

There have already been numerous attempts by the US government to secure health care benefits, disability compensation, disability benefits, and other benefits for these qualifying service members and family members. They suffer from conditions related to the Camp Lejeune water contamination during the specified time period.

Government Attempts to Make Changes

The US government has been taking steps to change the laws relating to Camp Lejeune and the water contamination for National Guard members who performed a qualifying service there or at MCAS New River. They include:

Janey Ensminger Act

The Janey Ensminger Act was finally introduced in 2011. This bill is named for the Marine’s daughter, who lived there at Camp Lejeune and died of cancer at only nine years old. It hasn’t been passed yet and is awaiting senate approval from 2019 onward.

Honoring America’s Veterans/Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act

In 2012, Congress passed H.R.1627, often called the Honoring America’s Veterans or Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act. Others have shortened it to the Camp Lejeune Act. Regardless, this legislation granted certain benefits to family members, veterans, and others exposed if they met the required standards.

The Veterans Administration provides VA compensation and health care benefits to veterans through the Camp Lejeune Families Act. In addition, this bill offers health care benefits to the family members but no VA compensation.

Ruling from Department of Veterans Affairs (2017)

A 2017 rule called Diseases Associated with the Exposure to Contaminants in Camp Lejeune’s Water Supply added more conditions to the disease registry that weren’t already included in the Camp Lejeune Families Act (Honoring America’s Veterans) from 2012.

Legal Actions Taken Against the Federal Government for Contaminated Drinking Water

Many lawsuits have already been filed against the US government because of the Camp Lejeune water contamination.

These include:

  • 2009 – A Marine Corps member’s wife filed a lawsuit because her husband was stationed at MCAS New River.
  • 2011 – A retired Marine filed another lawsuit claiming that his breast cancer diagnosis was related to drinking the water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022

The most recent update about the Camp Lejeune water contamination comes from the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. It could provide a path for people to file claims against the United States government, securing monetary compensation for workers, families, service members, and other people who lived at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for 30 or more days between the date ranges of 1953 and 1987.

This new law would allow the claimants to pursue legal action against the government, similar to how personal injury and mass tort litigations are handled. Such cases would get consolidated in the Eastern District of NC through the US District Court.

Overall, an individual, such as a veteran defined in the United States Code Title 38, Section 101, could hire a legal representative or do things themselves if they were at Camp Lejeune during the period beginning in August 1953 or ending in December 1987.

Generally, the Justice Act would then overrule North Carolina’s state law and other state laws prohibiting actions like this. It’s a major step forward for the victims suffering from specific diseases they developed due to the toxic substances in the water at Camp Lejeune. In addition, this bill would also allow in-utero dependents (those not yet born) to seek compensation because of exposure to their parents.

At Paul Ehline Memorial Ride, we anticipate countless military personnel and their families injured while at Camp Lejeune to file lawsuits in North Carolina’s federal court system. Because of the multi-district litigation, such cases will likely be consolidated and coordinated by a federal judge.

Filing a Claim or Lawsuit for Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

Those who served at Camp Lejeune worked there or lived on the base for 30 days or longer between 1953 to 1987 could be eligible to file claims. This includes those with the National Guard and others.

You must have a covered condition respective to those date ranges, have a current diagnosis of one of the eight presumptive conditions, and more.

Often, it’s difficult for people to handle everything themselves. You may not know where to go to get information or find it challenging to gather the evidence yourself. That’s why working with a reputable attorney, preferably a Marine vet, who cares about you is important.

We’re here for you at Paul Ehline Ride to help your get help from the VA and we have a vast network of vets and doctors who volunteer their time to make this happen.

Gathering Evidence

Many people who served at Camp Lejeune as part of the Marine Corps don’t need a lot of evidence to support their claims. If you’ve got one of the presumptive conditions related to the water contamination at this base and were on active duty at the time, there’s not much more to prove.

However, family members and others might require strong evidence to support their claims, and we can help.

Evidence for a water contamination lawsuit could include:

  • Documents that prove residence at Camp Lejeune
  • Records of disability benefits and VA compensation benefits
  • Health care information
  • Travel records
  • Medical bills
  • Medical records with diagnoses
  • Military service records, such as base housing records
  • Marriage license (for spouses)
  • Birth certificate documentation showing the dependent relationship (for children)

Typically, lawyers will only request your medical records to prove that you have one of the conditions listed earlier and to determine how much you spent out of pocket that should be returned to you.

Paid Health Care Expenses

Whether stationed at Camp Lejeune or not, you require appropriate health care. Most people have insurance that covers some or all. But lawyers can still compensate you for any paid health care expenses, such as co-pays and anything not covered by your insurance company.

Likewise, many veterans are on disability and receive state-funded medical care. Certain tests and treatments might not be available, and you may have been required to spend money out of pocket. Those can be added to the claim.

It’s often better to gather together all of your medical records and let an attorney figure it all out for you. They understand the law and how the military works to ensure that you provide the right documentation.

Do You Have to Show Medical Evidence or Not?

Some people believe that they don’t need to show evidence of their health issues or health care options because they have a covered condition respective of the time period and were on active duty at Camp Lejeune. While this is true for the most part, it’s still important to have documentation of the illness, know when you were diagnosed, and more.

The health care expenses you covered out of pocket should come back to you. However, that’s not the only compensation you might be entitled to. This is why it’s so important to work with a professional attorney.

Hiring a Military Service Lawyer for Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Claims

Once you’ve organized and secured your pieces of evidence relating to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune, you should search for a lawyer. We can help you find someone to refine the case, assess damages, and make a more viable claim for your deserved compensation.

Paul Ehline Ride has vast experience with VA claims leading to environmental exposure lawsuits, including water contamination. In addition, we focus primarily on veterans and their families. We can help you get help for negligence cases and personal injuries relating to vehicles, pedestrian accidents, medical malpractice, and much more through our network of military veterans raising awareness.

However, it’s important to determine if you’re in a practice area of Los Angeles or another state like North Carolina. Although non-attorneys can help with VA claims, the North Carolina Bar will demand you hire a member of the North Carolina Bar for any claims outside the VA in that state. Those who don’t live in NC may still contact us to locate an attorney who can provide a free consultation and serve them well, regardless of where they now reside.

Suppose your health was compromised by exposure to harmful chemicals. In that case, you deserve compensation for those injuries, lost wages from missing work or the inability to work, and the medical expenses that weren’t covered by your health care plan. You may use our online contact form to get started or call (310) 622-8719 today to receive your free case evaluation.

Our dedicated team can examine the case and fight for you to receive fair compensation. It’s our job to protect your rights; negligence could hurt anyone, and you and your family deserve the best.

Assessing the Damages from the Tainted Water Supply at Camp Lejeune

Damages include any losses that a person suffers, whether mental, emotional, or physical.

Within a Camp Lejeune water contamination suit, you could be entitled to:

  • Medical bill reimbursement
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Permanent disability
  • Loss of consortium, companionship, earning capacity, and enjoyment of life reimbursements
  • Disability benefits
  • Other compensatory damages

These are on top of your current VA benefits, as those are separate and provided because you served your country.

Determining Liability for the Injuries Sustained from the Drinking Water

Those who served at Camp Lejeune could have multiple liable defendants and parties, which include businesses that contributed to the water supply contamination, government and regulatory agencies, and even the federal government. Likewise, other persons or groups might have been part of the injury or diagnosis.

It’s often hard to determine liability in personal injury cases, but the situation at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, was one of the worst in history. Therefore, it’s more challenging, and you need a lawyer to help you establish the liable parties in your case. For example, your issues might have occurred because of TCE, which dry-cleaning plants primarily cause.

Therefore, your case might focus more on the dry-cleaning companies near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Sometimes, the situation is more complicated. For example, pregnant women living on the base or those who got pregnant while on the base might have children with birth defects or could suffer from female infertility. We must determine that you were there, that’s why you had those issues, and figure out who was at fault for it.

How Do You File a Claim – Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

Veterans, including National Guard members, aren’t required to hire a lawyer to receive disability compensation from being at Camp Lejeune. They may apply for VA benefits and compensation for this situation through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

However, we recommend you work with a lawyer who practices law in your area. Paul Ehline Memorial Ride knows you want someone who goes head to head with insurance companies and government entities when there’s proof of a mistake.

Whether you want to be compensated for the health care costs you paid for out of pocket or feel that you deserve compensation for pain and suffering because you worked or lived at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days, we can help with emotional support and maybe find you a lawyer too.

Why Hire A Law Firm?

Water contamination at Camp Lejeune is now known to cause significant issues, and your health condition might result from the time you served at Camp Lejeune while in the Marine Corps. We now know, through the Camp Lejeune Act and other studies, that its water supply was contaminated and well over the legal limit of toxic substances.

While no one can take your VA benefits away because you served your country, disability compensation is available for those stationed at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987.

The government did not have rules to prevent chemicals from entering the groundwater and knowingly let people continue drinking, bathing, and living on the site. They never studied individual water use patterns either. So no base hospital was even looking for other health conditions beyond giving you your normal Motrin for every problem during these time periods. There were no military orders about not drinking water at Camp Lejeune. Now, it’s up to you to fight for your rights to compensation and demand additional studies.

Conclusion

Our military veterans can probably help you locate your medical records and other evidence to prove your case. If you want to join the lawsuit, you are encouraged to contact us immediately to see if you qualify and if we can find a lawyer you will trust long term, to review the evidence of potential health effects as a free service to you.

Use our online form or call (310) 622-8719 to receive a free consultation from a non-profit VA case management operations specialist at Paul Ehline Memorial Ride today.

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