You’ve likely heard of the historic action undertaken by congress in recent months to help veterans exposed to toxic materials during their time in the military. What you may not know is that this action has resulted in many specific, individual acts that ensure both military and civilian individuals can get the restitution they deserve, and which can help them cover the many costs they’ve suffered due to toxic exposure. To help you understand the complexities involved, here are some of the most important things that you need to know about the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Trial (one of the most prominent and wide-reaching acts involved in this recent stint of legislation):
The Honoring Our PACT Act
The Honoring Our PACT Act was first introduced back in June of 2021 and was recently passed after a long fight in both houses of Congress. The bill provides benefits to Veterans that fall under three specific categories:
1. Veterans that participated in a toxic exposure risk activity (a qualifying activity that requires a corresponding entry in an exposure tracking record system).
2. Veterans that served in specified locations on specified dates.
3. Veterans that deployed in support of a specified contingency operation.
Supporters of the Honoring Our PACT Act see it as a huge improvement in governmental action toward veterans that were exposed to dangerous, toxic chemicals during their military service. Service members have continued to be exposed to toxic chemicals in burn pits, airborne gasses, drinking water, and other hazardous means over the past few decades. With new support being given to Veterans, they can now lead longer, happier lives, allowing our nation to honor the promise we made to them when they enlisted.
So What Exactly is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act?
Contained inside of the Honoring Our PACT Act, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act allows people who consumed contaminated water at the Camp Lejeune North Carolina Marine Corps Base to become eligible for filing lawsuits intended to recover damages for the effects of toxic exposure. The text of the bill makes it clear that those who were at Camp Lejeune between August 1st, 1953 and December 31st, 1987 for 30 or more days are eligible to file such suits. Additionally, it clarifies that veterans, non-military civilian contractors, and family members of veterans that were present and exposed during these dates qualify for a lawsuit. With this act now approved by Congress, many will finally get their trial for water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
What Type of Water Contamination Happened at Camp Lejeune?
Camp Lejeune was a major employer for civilians in North Carolina since its establishment in 1941 and has been a training camp for countless veterans during its time as a base. Water contamination was proven to be rampant at the base, as multiple volatile organic compounds (including trichloroethylene, vinyl chloride, benzene, and tetrachlorethylene) permeated the water that base residents and workers drank, bathed in, cooked with, and more for decades of the base’s operations. Despite much of this contamination being an open secret for many years, no effective action was taken to mitigate the risks of the exposure and contamination, and many base operatives withheld information about the harmful effects of the contamination from both residents and workers.
How are Veterans Exposed to Toxic Water Affected?
Thanks to the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, veterans and others who were exposed to the contaminated water at the infamous base will now be legally allowed to take legal action against the military for the damages caused by their toxic exposure. Many different benefits are being extended to those affected through the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. They can now recover compensation for injuries, emotional harm, medical costs, wrongful death, and other applicable damages using the act’s text. Because the lawsuits are just now entering into the system in some cases, there are a large number of affected veterans, civilian workers, and veteran family members beginning to file lawsuits - which many speculate will lead to widespread attention from the legal world.
How are Family Members and Non-Military Staff Affected?
As the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was achieved, many non-military staff members who worked at Camp Lejeune, as well as family members of veterans, were worried that they would be excluded from the act’s text. Thankfully, this is not the case and allows for these groups of individuals to easily file compensation claims. Once the completion of the administrative claim process is completed, these groups can now file their suits. Non-military staff, military family members present at the base, and other exposed civilians that are covered under the act’s text will be affected in this way.