Oklahoma City Attorneys Helping Veterans Stationed at Camp Lejeune
On August 10, 2022, the President of the United Stated signed “The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act” into law, after a long and grueling battle. The PACT Act contains multiple provisions to help veterans who have suffered from life-altering, and often terminal, illnesses as a result of toxic exposure. One part of that Act is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022.
Cunningham & Mears is ready and able to help veterans put in their claim for compensation. The deadline for these claims is two years – and the clock is already running. Call us in Oklahoma City today so we can help you get started.
What was wrong with Camp Lejeune?
In 1982, the Marine Corp discovered that there were toxins in the water at Camp Lejeune. Specifically, it found volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the water at Hadnot Point and Tarawa Terrace, two of eight on-based water treatment facilities. Per the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Tarawa Terrace’s water was contaminated by PCE (perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene), which was coming from ABC One-Hour Cleaners, an off-based dry cleaning business with questionable waste disposal practices.
Hadnot Point had multiple contaminants in its water: “TCE (trichloroethylene). Other contaminants in the drinking water included PCE and benzene and TCE degradation products trans-1,2-DCE (t-1,2-dichloroethylene) and vinyl chloride.” There were multiple sources of these toxins.
What injuries do these contaminants cause?
Until recently, there has been little study done on behalf of people who were drinking water contaminated with these compounds. The ATSDR’s data largely comes “from animal studies or studies of workers who use these chemicals in their workplace.” In these case studies, however, the compounds were linked to various types of cancers, as well as fetal defects.
However, servicemembers and their families who were stationed at Camp Lejeune experienced substantially higher rates of these life-threatening illnesses. VetsHQ, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CC), reports that Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune had:
- 68% higher risk of developing multiple myeloma
- 50% higher risk of developing ALS
- 47% higher risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- 42% higher risk of developing liver cancer
- 35% higher risk of developing kidney cancer
What does the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 do for sick veterans?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 does three extraordinary things.
- It allows family members to make a claim for compensation. Most funding and compensation available through the Veterans Association is set aside for veterans. The Janey Ensminger Act of 2012, for example, specifically excluded dependents. The new law allows civilians to make a claim.
- It removes a barrier for older claims. The statute of repose in North Carolina for a toxic tort is 10 years. The new laws allows EVERYONE affected to make a claim, no matter how long ago they were affected.
- It creates a presumption of illnesses. The VA is the largest healthcare system – and the largest government agency – in our country. There is a lot of “red tape” when it comes to claiming benefits for disabling conditions, and nowhere was this tape thicker than in claims involving toxic exposure. Under the PACT Act, veterans (and others) who were exposed to certain toxic substances (like the contaminated water, or Agent Orange, or burn pits) and have developed certain types of disabling and/or life-altering medical conditions are presumed to have developed them as a result of that exposure.
The short version? The PACT Act, and the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, will do more to help sick veterans and their families than any other legislation passed in recent history.
What conditions are covered by the Act?
There are 15 conditions that are presumed to be linked to toxic exposure:
|· Adult leukemia |
· Bladder cancer
· Breast cancer
· Esophageal cancer
· Female infertility
· Hepatic steatosis
· Lung cancer
· Kidney cancer
|· Miscarriage (exposure during pregnancy) |
· Multiple myeloma
· Myelodysplastic syndromes
· Neurobehavioral effects
· Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
· Renal toxicity
Who is eligible to file a claim for compensation for injuries from Camp Lejeune?
Under the new law:
An individual, including a veteran (as defined in section 101 of title 38, United States Code), or the legal representative of such an individual, who resided, worked, or was otherwise exposed (including in utero exposure) for not less than 30 days during the period beginning on August 1, 1953, and ending on December 31, 1987, to water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, that was supplied by, or on behalf of, the United States may bring an action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to obtain appropriate relief for harm that was caused by exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune. [emphasis ours]
How can you help OKC veterans and family members file a claim?
Cunningham & Mears has dealt with claims against the government before, and we know how exacting they can be. One missed box on the form, or one wrong date, and poof! Back to the end of the line you go – provided your claim isn’t denied entirely. Some estimates say there could be up to one million people who are eligible to make a claim, which means any error, however slight, can set you back weeks if not months.
We can help. In order to make a claim, bring us your:
- Proof of military service, or proof of a dependent relationship (like a birth certificate or marriage license) to the veteran who was stationed at Camp Lejeune
- Proof of residence or occupational status at Camp Lejeune. Remember, you must have lived and/or worked on the base for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987.
- Medical records (even if you are a spouse or child, and did not receive treatment form the VA), including your date of discovery of the illness, your treatment plan, and a record of your expenses related to that treatment.
At Cunningham & Mears, we believe that the folks who sacrificed so much to protect our freedoms deserve efficient and effective care when they are hurt or ill. Our Oklahoma City injury lawyers want to help you and your loved ones get the compensation you are entitled to receive through the new law, with as little fuss as possible. To get started on your claim, please call us at 405-232-1212 or fill out our contact form.
Ryan Y. Cunningham is a founding partner of Cunningham & Mears. Mr. Cunningham devotes his practice to protecting the rights of injured Oklahoma residents. In addition to assisting injured clients, Mr. Cunningham endeavors to improve personal injury representation by speaking on issues related to personal injury law to attorneys in continuing legal education courses and to law students. Learn More