Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit: What You Should KnowUpdated: November 13, 2023
If you served, worked or lived at Camp Lejeune between Aug. 1, 1953 and Dec. 31, 1987, you may have been exposed to toxic water that had long-term adverse impacts on your health.
The passage of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 paves the way for individuals to file lawsuits in federal court for exposures to toxins found in Camp Lejeune water. You can also file a separate claim for VA disability and health care coverage.
The Department of Veterans Affairs continues to update eligibility for service members and their family members who develop certain illnesses and conditions related to their time at Camp Lejeune.
Keep reading for more information on the health impacts of toxic water at Camp Lejeune and how to file compensation claims with the military, the VA and in federal court.
What Is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act became law on Aug. 10, 2022.
Though initially introduced as standalone legislation, Congress passed The Camp Lejeune Justice Act as Section 804 of the Honoring Our Pact Act of 2022.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 allows you to sue the government in federal court – something you aren’t normally allowed to do – for compensation for health conditions resulting from toxic water exposure at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina from 1953 to 1987.
Below you’ll find more instructions on how to file a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit.
Toxic VOCs Found in the Water at Camp Lejeune
In 1982, the Marine Corps found drinking water contamination at two out of Camp Lejune’s eight water treatment facilities, according to the CDC website. This contamination included toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that significantly exceeded maximum contaminant levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The VOCs in Camp Lejeune water included:
- Trichloroethylene (TCE)
- Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)
- Vinyl chloride
The Marine Corps found multiple sources of contamination, including leaky underground storage tanks, industrial area spills and waste disposal sites. Additionally, disposal procedures at ABC Cleaners, located off-post, caused the contamination of the Tarawa Terrace water facility. You can read the CDC’s full report here.
Health Effects & Diseases Associated With Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
The U.S. government recognizes that VOC contamination can cause several cancerous and non-cancerous diseases.
These are types of cancers that can be caused by chemicals found in Camp Lejeune’s drinking water, according to the CDC:
- Kidney cancer (TCE)
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (TCE, PCE, benzene)
- Multiple myeloma (TCE, benzene)
- Bladder cancer (PCE)
- Leukemia (benzene)
- Liver cancer (TCE, vinyl chloride)
These are some other diseases caused by the toxic VOCs found at Camp Lejeune:
- Cardiac defects (TCE)
- End-stage renal disease (TCE, PCE)
- Parkinson’s disease (TCE)
- Scleroderma (TCE)
Other Possible Conditions
The CDC found at least one study that links TCEs, PCEs, benzene or vinyl chloride exposure to these diseases:
- Breast cancer (TCE, PCE)
- Brain cancer (vinyl chloride)
- Cervical cancer (TCE, PCE)
- Chonal atresia (TCE, PCE)
- Hodgkin’s disease (TCE, PCE)
- Lung cancer (TCE, PCE, vinyl chloride)
- Ovarian cancer (TCE, PCE)
- Prostate cancer (TCE, PCE)
- Rectal cancer (TCE, PCE)
- Esophageal cancer (TCE, PCE)
- Eye defects (TCE, PCE)
- Low birth weight (TCE, PCE)
- Fetal conditions, including death, major malformations, and small for gestational age (TCE, PCE)
- Neural tube defects (TCE, PCE)
- Oral cleft defects (including cleft lip) (TCE, PCE)
- Miscarriage (TCE, PCE, benzene)
- Impaired immune system function (TCE, PCE)
- Neurological effects, including delayed reactions and problems with short-term memory visual perception, attention, and color vision (TCE, PCE)
- Neurobehavioral performance deficits (delayed recall and deficits in visual perception), decreased blink reflex, and mood effects (i.e., confusion, depression and tension) (TCE, PCE)
- Severe, generalized hypersensitivity skin disorder (an autoimmune-related disease) (TCE, PCE)
- Aplastic anemia (benzene)
- Myelodysplastic syndrome (benzene)
- Soft tissue cancer (vinyl chloride)
- Liver cirrhosis (vinyl chloride)
You can find the studies linking these diseases here.
Symptoms of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
The cancers and other illnesses caused by Camp Lejeune water contamination are varied. As such, there is no comprehensive list of possible symptoms people exposed to VOC-contaminated water might experience.
The Mayo Clinic lists these general cancer symptoms (which can have other causes) on its website:
- Lump or area of thickening that can be felt under the skin
- Weight changes, including unintended loss or gain
- Skin changes, such as yellowing, darkening or redness of the skin, sores that won’t heal, or changes to existing moles
- Changes in bowel or bladder habits
- Persistent cough or trouble breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Persistent indigestion or discomfort after eating
- Persistent, unexplained muscle or joint pain
- Persistent, unexplained fevers or night sweats
- Unexplained bleeding or bruising
If you have a concern about these or other unexplained symptoms, talk to your doctor. You should also tell your doctor If you believe you may have been exposed to toxic VOCs while living or working at Camp Lejeune.
VA Benefits for Veterans & Family Members Related to Camp Lejeune Toxic Exposures
You can get disability compensation and health care for diseases caused by exposure to Camp Lejeune water from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
VA’s Presumptive Conditions Caused by Exposure to Toxic VOCs
The VA presumes service connection for exposure to toxic VOCs at Camp Lejeune for these conditions, according to the VA Camp Lejeune page:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
If you were on active, reserve or National Guard duty at Camp Lejeune and have any of the above conditions, you may qualify for disability compensation.
Service Criteria for Camp Lejeune Water Disability Claims
For the VA to presume your condition was related to Camp Lejeune water you must have served at Camp Lejeune or Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River between Aug. 1953 and Dec. 1987. To qualify for disability compensation, you must not have received a dishonorable discharge.
If you have one of the presumptive conditions and your service fulfills the criteria, you can file a VA claim for disability benefits.
VA Health Care and Cost Reimbursement for Family Members
The VA offers health care benefits to veterans and family members with these conditions:
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Renal toxicity
The VA might also reimburse you for prior out-of-pocket healthcare expenses related to these issues. Family members have to prove a relationship to a veteran serving at Camp Lejeune and a document showing that they lived at the base for at least 30 days between August 1953 and December 1987.
While it isn’t mandatory, you can also ask your doctor to fill out this form to help the VA gather information about your claim.
Filing Camp Lejeune Compensatory Damage Claims and Lawsuits
Service members and veterans who were exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune can also file in federal court for compensatory damages. The Pact Act dictates where and how you must file this legal action.
How to File a Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Claim With the Navy
Before you file a federal lawsuit, you must first file a claim with the Navy, according to Matt Dolman, managing partner at Dolman Law Group.
“A lot of people don’t realize that,” Dolman said in an interview. “So, before you actually file your lawsuit in the Eastern District of North Carolina, you must first submit a claim through the Department of the Navy.”
The Navy’s Judge Advocate General (JAG) will evaluate this initial claim, Dolman said. Be sure to include:
- Dates of residence or employment at Camp Lejeune
- Details about exposure to the contaminated water, such as whether you bathed in it, drank it or used it in cooking
- Frequency of exposure, such as daily or weekly
- Medical condition or disease suffered as a result of exposure
- Dates of diagnosis
- Treatments received
- Treatment outcome
- Impact the medical condition had on your life (mental and physical conditions)
- Request for financial compensation
“The Department of the Navy will have to determine a causal link between the exposure, including how much exposure there was and whether they are going to approve or disapprove the claim,” Dolman said.
This Navy JAG webpage has more information about filing claims under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022. Under the new law, claimants must re-file complaints about Camp Lejeune water exposures even if they were previously denied, according to a notice on the page.
The Navy’s JAG tort claim unit in Norfolk, Virginia has up to six months to make a determination on each claim. You are eligible to file a lawsuit as soon as the Navy makes its decision – whether it approves your claim or not.
“The Navy might evaluate the claim and say it’s worth $100,000 or $125,000, based on your need for ongoing and future treatment,” Dolman said as an example. “But, you may believe that the claim is worth $500,000 or more.”
In that case, you can file a lawsuit for additional damages.
You can pursue this legal process even if you already have a claim filed with the VA and are receiving VA compensation.
Filing a claim with the Navy or a lawsuit in federal court will not impact the VA disability compensation or health care you might already receive for Lejeune toxic water exposures.
Who Qualifies for the Camp Lejeune Lawsuit?
After the Navy JAG determines your claim, you must also meet the following criteria to be eligible to sue for compensation for toxic Camp Lejeune exposures:
- You must have served, lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 cumulative days between Aug. 1, 1953 and Dec. 31, 1987
- You must file your lawsuit with the Eastern District of North Carolina
You are also eligible to file a lawsuit if you suffered in utero health conditions while your mother was serving, working or living at Camp Lejeune.
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit Settlement Amounts
While The Pact Act prohibits punitive damages in Camp Lejeune lawsuit cases, you can file for actual damages associated with treatment costs and the impact your medical condition has had on your life.
“The theory with actual damages is we have to recover enough money for the injured party to make them whole,” said Stan Gipe, another partner at Dolman Law Group.
Your attorneys may calculate your actual damages compensation request based on factors like a life care plan to determine your Camp Lejeune lawsuit’s settlement amount.
“Let’s say you’re 28 years old and expected to live until you’re 79.6 on the life expectancy table, we are going to have to calculate what your medical expenses are per year over the next 51 years,” attorney Matt Dolman said.
You can also file lawsuits for Camp Lejeune water contamination on behalf of relatives who died from issues related to Camp Lejeune water contamination.
Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Updates
The Pact Act stipulates that claimants can only sue for Camp Lejeune compensation in the Eastern District of North Carolina of the United States District Court.
To date, no Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits have been decided in federal court. Since late September 2022, claimants have submitted around 5,000 compensatory claims to the Department of the Navy, Dolman said.
In the future, attorneys could attempt to file a Camp Lejeune water class action lawsuit. If that effort would be successful, the total camp lejeune lawsuit payout per person would depend on how many people would be included in the case. As of now, there is no pending class action lawsuit.
Where to Get Help Filing a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit
To file a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit, you can find a private attorney or work with a law office specializing in these claims.
These are some law offices that advertise Camp Lejeune lawsuit services:
Editor’s Note: Veteran.com does not endorse any attorney or law firm, whether it is on this list or not.
Check back with Veteran.com for more Camp Lejeune water contamination news in 2022. We’ll publish details as they develop.