Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022

The CLJA is the result of decades worth of work by victims, advocates, lawyers and government officials who diligently and continually sought just compensation and care and treatment benefits for those who became ill due to the water contamination at the Camp Lejeune military base.
Updated on October 6, 2022
Camp Lejeune

For decades, victims of the Camp Lejeune water contamination have been submitting claims, filing lawsuits, requesting benefits and seeking compensation for the cancers, diseases, illnesses, miscarriages, birth defects and otherwise compromised health that they have suffered over the years. With varying degrees of success and failure, some victims have received and continue to receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). These benefits are adequate for some, lacking for others, and still yet to be received by others. Lawsuits have found even less success, either being filed and delayed beyond or filed after a 10-year statute of limitation.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 (CLJA) changes everything for victims of the water contamination. This act of legislature supersedes, but does not negate, all previous legislature.

What Is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022?

According to the official summary of H.R.2192, which was originally introduced in the House of Representatives on March 26, 2021 as the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021, “This bill allows certain individuals to sue and recover damages for harm from exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987. This action is available only to individuals who were exposed to contaminated water for at least 30 days. The bill prohibits the U.S. government from asserting specified immunity from litigation in response to such a lawsuit. The bill also prohibits an individual who brings such an action from bringing a separate tort action against the United States based on the same harm.”

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act is part of a larger bill called the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 or the Honoring our PACT Act of 2022 (PACT Act). H.R.3967, as it is formally known and presented before the House and Senate, summarizes that “This bill addresses health care, presumption of service-connection, research, resources, and other matters related to veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during military service.”

Generally, the larger PACT Act provides help and assistance to approximately 3.5 million veterans exposed to hazardous toxins during their military service to the United States, such as while working burn pits in Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere to dispose of environmentally hazardous materials and other waste. The PACT Act provides greater ease for veterans to receive benefits and expands treatment options.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act, under this larger umbrella PACT Act, specifically addresses the exposure to water contamination of veterans, their families, civil workers and other personnel and visitors. On August 2, 2022, the Senate voted 86-11 to approve the PACT Act. On August 10, 2022, President Joe Biden signed this bill into law.

Under the CLJA, water contamination exposure victims can now bring forth claims and lawsuits to receive benefits and compensation that were previously denied or dismissed due to limited allowed health conditions, over-burden of proof or statute of limitations.

As was previously stated, some veterans have received and continue to receive treatment and disability benefits as a result of submitting claims to the VA for injuries caused by exposure to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. However, some veterans have been denied health care and benefits because their injury did not fall within a limited “presumption of service connection for certain health conditions associated with exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune”. This short list of presumptive conditions included:

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

In 2012, in accordance with the Camp Lejeune health care law, also referred to as the Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, the list of presumptive conditions was expanded:

  • Esophageal cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Renal toxicity
  • Female infertility
  • Scleroderma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Lung cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Miscarriage
  • Neurobehavioral effects

Under the CLJA, the list of cancers, diseases and other illnesses and injuries has been expanded to include 23 additional maladies.

Previously, the burden of proof on the claimant to provide documentation of medical bills and records and link medical diagnoses was sometimes so many years after the fact that it was difficult for claimants to produce or prove. Therefore, their claims were denied.

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Lawsuits faced statute of limitations, according to North Carolina law. Previously, there was a 10-year statute of limitation on water contamination lawsuits. Existing lawsuits were hindered or delayed past the 10-year limit and consequently dismissed. Other lawsuits brought forth were submitted after the 10-year limit and therefore were disallowed or dismissed.

The signing of the CLJA bill into law overrides the 10-year limitation on filing lawsuits in North Carolina and virtually eliminates these previous obstacles and allows for veterans or their family members or representatives to submit claims and lawsuits after as much as almost 70 years later. This allows them to receive the healthcare benefits and compensation that they justly deserve.

History of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act has been a work in progress for decades. In 2012, President Barack Obama signed into law the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 (H.R. 1627) which granted benefits to some service members who were exposed to contaminated water at the Camp Lejeune base.

In 2017, after the VA published a list of presumptive diseases and conditions related to the Camp Lejeune water contamination, there was a spike in the number of claims from veterans for their presumptive conditions, but many were, unfortunately, denied health care benefits and compensation.

In 2008, Ed Bell of the Bell Legal Group, based in South Carolina, began working on a legislative solution to the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination (CLCW) issue that sought for a path for justice for Marines and others on base who suffered from it. Together with Former Federal Judge and Congressman John Napier and retired U.S. Magistrate Judge George Kosko as well as advocates Jerry Ensminger and Mike Partain, Ed worked with victims and lawmakers to help draft the resulting legislation, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. This bipartisan legislation was introduced by Thom Tillis, Republican Senator of North Carolina; Richard Blumenthal, Democratic Senator of Connecticut; Richard Burr, Republican Senator of North Carolina; and Gary Peter, Democratic Senator or Michigan on November 4, 2021. Representative Dr. Greg Murphy was the co-sponsor of the bill in the House. As a medical doctor, Representative Murphy was able to utilize his close ties to the medical community for help and support of this legislation.

The original release of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act states as follows:

“The legislation proposes to correct unfair legal barriers unique to Marine families stationed at Camp Lejeune due to an anomaly in the application of North Carolina law in the federal court system by establishing a new federal cause of action for individuals exposed to CLCW. This enables individuals affected by toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune to bring suit before the district court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to present evidence for injuries caused by exposure to CLCW.”

How Does the Bill Affect Veteran Benefits?

Veterans currently receiving health care and/or disability benefits from the VA will not be denied benefits or have their benefits discontinued as a result of the signing of the CLJA into law, nor by filing a lawsuit under the CLJA. If you are currently receiving health care benefits from programs like the Camp Lejeune Family Member Program or receiving disability benefits from the VA, this will not end. Quite the opposite.

The CLJA will expand the existing benefits that veterans are currently receiving. Health care benefits and treatments that were previously given can be expanded upon to make up for care that was lacking or insufficient or previously denied. The CLJA also extends claims that can be filed to non-military civilians that were working at Camp Lejeune from August 1, 1953 to December 31, 1987.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that spending on Camp Lejeune water contamination claims over the next 10 years will be in excess of $6 billion. Settlements will likely occur out of court in lieu of litigation of civil lawsuits in court. There is no equal compensation that will be divided amongst all of the claimants. Compensation will be determined based on several factors – age of victim, severity of injury, cost of medical treatment, lost wages, pain and suffering, and funeral expenses (in the case of wrongful death) are just some that compensation will be based on.

Based on the CBO’s estimations and the number of estimated victims that will file a claim, some claimants may receive settlements in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What are the Qualifications for Filing a Lawsuit?

To be eligible to file a claim, victims, or their families, must have lived or worked on the Camp Lejeune military base for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 and suffered from a related injury or illness as a result of exposure to the water contamination. This includes U.S. Marine personnel and veterans, U.S. Navy personnel and veterans, spouses of military personnel and veterans, adult children or dependents who lived on base, children of military personnel and veterans who were born on base or in utero, and civilian workers and their families. This would also include visitors who visited the base for a 30-day period of time. The CLJA states that this 30-day period can be continuous or non-continuous.

Eligible victims will be required to file an administrative claim first before they can file a civil lawsuit. This administrative claim has a 6 month processing limit. If the claim is not settled or time runs out, the lawsuit can move forward. It is expected that the majority of claims will be settled out of court to avoid expensive litigation. Eligible claimants have just two years from the signing of the CLJA into law to file their claim or lawsuit. That deadline is August 10, 2024.

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