The Types of Illnesses Caused by Camp Lejeune Water ContaminationCamp Lejeune water contamination has caused many illnesses. Currently, the VA compensates those who worked or lived at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River during specific periods and were diagnosed with:
- Adult-onset leukemia: a cancer of the body's blood-forming tissues, including bone marrow and the lymphatic system.
- Myelodysplastic syndromes, including aplastic anemia, occur when the bone marrow cannot produce enough new blood cells for the body to function normally.
- Cancers of the liver, bladder, or kidneys.
- Multiple myeloma: cancer that involves the white blood cell, known as the plasma cell.
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma: a type of cancer that begins in the body's lymphatic system.
- Parkinson's disease: a progressive neurologic condition that produces muscle spasms, uncontrollable movements, and difficulty with balance and coordination.
How the Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune OccurredAccording to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), in 1982, the Marine Corps discovered specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the drinking water produced by two of Camp Lejeune's water distribution plants. A third plant was also identified as water users serviced by that plant used water from one of the contaminated plants intermittently through the years during scheduled shutdowns and when water was in high demand during summer and spring. These plants included:
- The Tarawa Terrace distribution plant supplied water for Tarawa Terrace family housing from 1952 until it was shut down in 1987. This plant also served the Knox Trailer Park. The waste disposal practices of ABC One-Hour Cleaners, an off-base dry cleaner contaminated the Tarawa Terrace with PCE (perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene). PCE is a compound commonly used in dry cleaning and metal degreasing operations. Sufficient evidence shows that regular exposure to PCEs causes an increased risk of bladder cancer. Studies link it to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and end-stage renal disease.
- The Hadnot Point distribution plant serviced the drinking water needs of the Mainside barracks, Hospital Point family housing, and family housing at Midway Park, Paradise Point, and Berkeley Manor until June 1972. Water from the Hadnot Point distribution plant had high levels of TCE (trichloroethylene), used in dry cleaning and metal degreasing applications, as well as in adhesives and paint and stain removers. This contamination's primary source was leaking underground storage tanks and improper waste disposal sites, allowing the compound to leech into water supplies. TCEs increase the risk of kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and cardiac defects. Evidence suggests that high exposure to TCEs over time can also increase the risk of leukemia, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, end-stage renal disease, Parkinson's disease, and scleroderma.
- The Holcombe Boulevard distribution plant, which began operation in June 1972, provided drinking water for family housing at Midway Park, Paradise Point, Berkeley Manor, and Watkins Village. After March 1987, this plant also serviced family housing at Tarawa Terrace. While the wells feeding this plant were generally uncontaminated, those on the Holcombe Boulevard distribution system received water for a brief period in January - February 1987 from the Tarawa Terrace distribution plant and intermittently during dry years from 1972-1987.
- Benzene: One of the top 20 chemicals used in manufacturing, is often an ingredient in detergents, dyes, plastics, and resins. Benzene causes leukemia and lymphoma. Evidence associates it with an increased risk of aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes, in addition to miscarriage.
- Vinyl chloride: Used to make PVC pipes and other plastic products, as well as wire and cable coatings and packaging materials. In high doses, Vinyl chloride causes liver cancer. Evidence also suggests that it increases the risk of other types of cancer, including the liver, brain, and soft tissues, and liver cirrhosis.
Who May Claim Compensation Through a VA Water Contamination Claim?Those who may receive compensation for lost wages and loss of earning capacity, as well as medical treatment and payment of out-of-pocket medical expenses, include:
- Veterans, reservists, and guardsmen who served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for at least 30 consecutive days between August 1953 and December 1987 who were diagnosed with one of the eligible conditions.
- The family members of veterans, reservists, or guardsmen who lived at least 30 consecutive days at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River between August 1953 and December 1987 and were diagnosed with one of the illnesses caused by exposure to the compounds in the base drinking water supply.
Health Benefits Available for Veterans and Their Family MembersIn addition to disability compensation, veterans and their family members are eligible to receive health benefits. These health benefits include coverage of the costs of treatment and prescription medication if they meet the above-listed exposure criteria and have been diagnosed with any of the following conditions linked to water contamination at Camp Lejeune and MCAS New River:
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Renal toxicity
How to File a VA Claim for Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Compensation and Health BenefitsCamp Lejeune water contamination claimants can make VA claims for compensation and health benefits by filing a disability compensation claim with the department and providing certain documentation to support your claim. Your lawyer can file your claim through the VA's online claims system or by downloading and printing the VA Form 10-10068 and sending it to the Veteran's Administration by FAX or mail. Claimants can also personally deliver their claims and supporting evidence to their local VA office.
Evidence Needed to Support Your ClaimThe VA needs:
- At least one document showing that you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 consecutive days between August 1953 and December 1987, such as military orders, base housing records, utility bills, or tax records.
- Family members of a veteran, guardsman, or reserve must show documentation of their relationship to that service member, such as birth records, adoption records, or a marriage license.
- Medical records that show a diagnosis of one of the above-listed conditions.
How Long Does the VA Need to Make a Decision on Claims?According to the VA, disability claims take 141.9 days to complete. Some factors that can cause the claims process to take longer include failing to provide the necessary documentation to prove presence at Camp Lejeune during exposure or failing to show adequate documentation of a related illness.
Is There an Option to File a Lawsuit Instead of a VA Claim?Previously, courts dismissed attempts to sue the federal government for benefits by those suffering from Camp Lejeune water contamination-related illnesses. A provision in North Carolina's statute of limitations allows a maximum of 10 years from when a defendant's last act or omission occurred to file a claim. This is called the statute of repose. Many medical conditions associated with the type of compounds that contaminated the water at Camp Lejeune are cancerous. Each cancer carries a latency period, which is the time between exposure to a carcinogenic substance and when abnormal cells begin to develop. This latency period can run for many years or even decades, which would place most people outside of the statute of repose, even if they had reason to suspect that toxic substance exposure caused their cancer. In 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate each passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 as part of the Honoring Our PACT Act. Among other things, this legislation provides an avenue where claimants can circumvent the North Carolina statute of repose and file a lawsuit against the U.S. government in federal court. The claims may receive class-action certification, with claimants obtaining their share of several billions of dollars that the act allows for settlements. The act calls for a two-year statute of limitations for those seeking compensation from the federal government through a legal claim. You must file a claim within two years of the claimant's diagnosis of a water contamination-related condition.
How an Attorney Can Help You With Your ClaimWhile an attorney is not required to seek benefits through a VA disability claim, having an attorney who understands the VA claims process and the process of seeking compensation in a claim against a government and through class-action claims can greatly help. An attorney can provide:
- Guidance about the different paths you can take to obtain compensation for the expenses and impacts of your water contamination-related illness.
- Assistance with gathering the medical and proof of presence documentation you need to submit with your VA administrative claim or a legal claim filed against the government.
- An understanding of documents necessary to prove your claim, including published studies linking exposure to the compounds found in Camp Lejeune's drinking water distribution system to the medical condition you now suffer from.
- Filing your VA disability claim or lawsuit.
- Collecting a settlement or award.