On August 9, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the PACT Act into United States law. The Act would provide $300 billion in financial benefits to veterans and their families exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other pollutants. The PACT Act also has provisions known as Camp Lejeune Justice Act that removes the government’s previous immunity.
Although that is a step in the right direction, many legal experts believe it could be long before the veterans receive any payouts for their water contamination injuries sustained while residing at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
Let’s explore the details of these provisions and whether or not it benefits the veterans exposed to water contamination at the Camp Lejeune military base.
In 2012, lawmakers passed legislation making it easy for veterans and their family members who develop rare cancers and other illnesses to receive quality healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The law at the time did not cover many problems. Those who had already lost someone to toxic exposure at the Marine Corps Camp Lejeune could not receive compensation under the legislation. However, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 (CLJA), passed on August 9, 2022, aims to improve the prior law.
The CLJA allows veterans and their families to file a civil lawsuit against the government for their injuries resulting from exposure to contaminated Camp Lejeune water supply.
Before the bill, the United States government had sovereign immunity from litigation, including lawsuits by Camp Lejeune victims. Between 1953 and 1987, more than 2 million people resided or worked at the North Carolina military base, and these people started experiencing illnesses resulting from Camp Lejeune water contamination.
At the time, Camp Lejeune residents and workers would only receive health care benefits for specific medical conditions resulting from contaminated drinking water through filing claims with VA. Although there is considerable scientific and medical evidence of injuries linked to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina’s statute of repose dismissed all the lawsuits filed.
With the provisions in the PACT Act aimed at individuals who lived and worked at Camp Lejeune, victims can now file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit against the government for their injuries.
Those affected by water contamination at the military base can file a lawsuit against the US government in the Eastern District of North Carolina. However, only a specific group of victims can file a case, and these include:
In most situations, a medical expert will have to testify in court that your condition is due to exposure to contaminated water at the Marine Corps base.
The CLJA also allows individuals to file a lawsuit on behalf of their loved ones who died from diseases they contracted while working or residing at the Camp.
Under CLJA, plaintiffs must file an administrative claim against the government first. They must submit medical records that show a link between their medical condition and the volatile organic compounds found at the base. Once they file a claim, the government has 180 days to respond to the claim.
If the government declines the claim, the plaintiffs have 180 days to file a lawsuit in the Eastern District of North Carolina federal court. To have a successful case, the plaintiffs must prove a causal relationship between their “injury” and toxic exposure.
Before the CLJA, there was multi-district litigation, including 850 plaintiffs, under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which the court dismissed due to North Carolina’s 10-year statute of repose. The dismissal of the litigation led lawmakers to push for CLJA.
When President Biden signed the Act into law, advocates started to warn thousands of affected veterans and victims to think before filing a lawsuit as they may not receive anything.
Shane Liermann, deputy national legislative director at Disabled American Veterans, stated that veterans must understand all the risks of filing Camp Lejeune lawsuits before making an informed decision. He mentioned that there is a serious concern that veterans may not receive anything, and some may even see reductions in the benefits. In the event of a successful lawsuit, it may take months or even years before they see Camp Lejeune settlement payouts.
Many law firms were anticipating new legislation to compensate victims exposed to the contaminated drinking water at the military base. The flood of legal advertisements in recent months claiming to recover compensation could be a serious concern for many veterans.
The idea that you can recover compensation for your injuries sounds like a no-brainer, especially for those deprived of VA benefits for their illnesses resulting from their time spent at the Marine Corps military base.
However, Veterans of Foreign Wars warned veterans to be careful of such advertisements as no one can predict how the VA might interpret the new Act until VA publishes regulations, which are due in a couple of months.
One of the most important questions arising from the new Act is whether or not those veterans eligible for disability payouts will lose access to their benefits after winning a lawsuit.
VA officials clarified their position on the Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit stating that they will not punish plaintiffs by cutting off their benefits for filing lawsuits under CLJA. However, they mentioned that those already receiving benefits might see a dollar-to-dollar offset upon winning the case. It might cost plaintiffs more than they receive, especially after considering attorney fees.
Before filing a lawsuit, you should speak to an experienced Camp Lejeune lawyer about your Camp Lejeune water contamination injuries.
Advocates are right about the awarded compensation being affected by the benefits set off. However, with experienced trial Camp Lejeune attorneys, victims can negotiate better Camp Lejeune settlement amounts to get the compensation they deserve.
Paul Ehline Ride and our team are joining forces with legal and medical experts to help veterans and their families suffering illnesses from exposure to toxic chemicals, burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances.
Whether you’re looking to connect with Camp Lejeune lawyers to help assess your Camp Lejeune water lawsuit or want to join our struggle for justice for Marine Corps base survivors and their family members, contact us at (310) 622-8719 to speak to our representative.
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