A guide to all things Camp Lejeune

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that as many as a million people may have been exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune between August 1953 and December 1987.  Affected people include service members, their families and on-base workers. This contamination may cause long-lasting, serious harm to those who experienced the toxic exposure. Below is a guide to what you need to know about Camp Lejeune.

What happened at Camp Lejeune?

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were found in the drinking water supply at water treatment plants serving Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has investigated the contamination. The VOCs found in Camp Lejeune water include:

  • Benzene
  • Tetrachloroethylene/perchloroethylene (PCE)
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE)
  • Vinyl chloride

The contamination mainly affected Camp Lejeune, but may also have impacted Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River, North Carolina as well.

How did the chemicals get in Camp Lejeune’s water?

Camp Lejeune pulls its water from groundwater wells. Contamination sources included a dry-cleaning firm and improper waste disposal. 

Camp Lejeune’s water treatment plants then distributed the contaminated water throughout the base.

Why are the chemicals in Camp Lejeune’s water a problem?

The VOCs found in Camp Lejeune’s drinking water have been studied and linked to several serious cancers and other conditions. Some of the serious conditions linked to these chemicals include:

People who develop these conditions after serving at Camp Lejeune during the contamination period may be eligible for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other compensation from the federal government.

Camp Lejeune legislation

A few different acts have been passed concerning the rights of people affected by Camp Lejeune’s toxic water.

  • Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022: The PACT Act was a law passed by Congress in August 2022. It allows impacted service members to seek compensation for harms from toxic exposure during their service.
  • Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA): Also passed in 2022, the CLJA is part of the PACT Act. It details how victims of Camp Lejeune’s toxic drinking water can file for compensation with the government.
  • Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012: This act was passed 10 years prior to the above two. It allows injured veterans and their families to receive healthcare coverage for certain Camp Lejeune injuries.

The Camp Lejeune Families Act provides very different rights than the PACT Act and CLJA. Read on to find out how each piece of legislation may impact veterans harmed at Camp Lejeune.

What are Camp Lejeune lawsuits?

The CLJA opened up a potential for injured veterans to file lawsuits against the government for their injuries. But, there is a process that must be followed before these suits can be filed.

People who would like to seek compensation for any conditions they suffered from toxic drinking water at Camp Lejeune must start with an administrative claim with the Department of Navy (DON). However, the claim process on its own doesn’t always guarantee compensation for those harmed by Camp Lejeune contaminated water.

After filing your DON claim, you may have the right to file a lawsuit in federal district court in the Eastern District of North Carolina. The lawsuit can only be filed if the Department of the Navy:

Be warned that there is a deadline for starting the process. That actual deadline is currently under review by a Federal Judge. If you fail to file a claim by the deadline you may be barred from receiving compensation. Additionally, if you fail to file a lawsuit within 180 days of receiving a denial of your claim, you may also be barred from receiving compensation.

Learn more about Camp Lejeune lawsuits here.

Contact a Camp Lejeune water contamination attorney

If you or a loved one served, worked or lived at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and developed severe health complications, a knowledgeable toxic exposure attorney can help you weigh your options for compensation. We are available by email, or you can call 866.855.9017 for more information.

Contact a lawyer today.

What VA benefits are available for veterans?

Veterans and their families may be able to file for VA benefits on their own. Motley Rice lawyers are not involved in VA claims. There are two types of VA benefits available to veterans, reservists and National Guard members:

  • Disability: A monthly payment based on the severity of a person’s injury
  • Healthcare: Treatment for service members and their families at VA facilities

Generally, for disability benefits or healthcare coverage, you must be able to show that your condition is service-connected. However, if you have one or more of the conditions on the Camp Lejeune presumptive list, there is a presumptive service connection. This means that if a Camp Lejeune veteran has one of these conditions, the VA “presumes” it was caused by their time during service on base.

For other conditions, you will have to show that your conditions are service-connected and related to your time at Camp Lejeune.

What is the Camp Lejeune presumptive list?

The following eight conditions are on the presumptive list of conditions caused by exposure to toxic drinking water at Camp Lejeune.

Camp Lejeune presumptive list:

  • Adult leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Bladder cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Parkinson's disease

According to the VA, there is enough scientific evidence to link these health issues to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. That means it may be easier to receive VA benefits if you or a family member who served suffer from any of these conditions.

In addition to having one of the above conditions, the person claiming the benefits must show that they were:

  • Stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina or Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina
  • Present at either base between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987
  • Lived, worked or served at either base for at least 30 days during that time span

What other conditions are covered under the Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012?

The Camp Lejeune presumptive list covers the conditions that the VA can presume to be caused by toxic exposure to Camp Lejeune drinking water. Another 15 conditions are covered under the Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act.

The full list of qualifying conditions includes:

Qualifying conditions under the Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act

What is the difference between Camp Lejeune lawsuits and VA benefits?

A Camp Lejeune lawsuit can help you or your family get a monetary award for injuries suffered because of toxic exposure. A Camp Lejeune lawyer may be able to help you with your Camp Lejeune lawsuit. An attorney with experience handling toxic exposure claims may be able to help you understand the nuances of filing your administrative claim or what steps you need to take to file a lawsuit.

The VA provides service members with disability or healthcare benefits as a result of developing conditions associated with Camp Lejeune contaminated water exposure. You do not need a lawyer to file a claim for VA benefits. The VA provides a comprehensive guide for getting help filing a claim for VA benefits.

Our history of representing veterans

Motley Rice has a long history of helping veterans and their family members seek justice for preventable harms that have caused personal injuries and wrongful deaths.

We have represented claimants in litigation for:

  • Exposure to asbestos and other toxic materials
  • 3M earplugs and hearing loss
  • EFP roadside bombs manufactured by terrorists
  • Exposure to toxins released from burn pits at military facilities

Our law firm has the experience to help you with your claim, litigate your case, and negotiate for a Camp Lejeune settlement.

Read more on our work in support of veterans.