Those exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune are expected to receive settlements sooner now that the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of the Navy have completed a new streamlined application process.
More than 93,000 people have filed claims against the U.S. government after being diagnosed with a serious illness following exposure to tainted water at the North Carolina Marine Corps base. People who qualify for a settlement were stationed or worked at the base between 1953 and 1987.
Those filing a claim can now utilize the newly created Elective Option. Settlement payouts range from $150,000 to $450,000, along with an additional $100,000 offered if the exposure resulted in a death.
“The Elective Option is a critical step in bringing relief to qualifying claimants impacted by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, who will now have an avenue for receiving quick and early resolution of claims under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act,” U.S. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement.
Elective Option Details
The Navy and the Justice Department plan to reach out to the thousands of people who’ve already filed claims and qualify for the Elective Option, offering them a set amount of money. Claimants will have 60 days to decide if they want to accept the offer or keep pursuing a larger settlement. Officials don’t have a specific timeline for how quickly the payments may begin, but they say it will be soon after the claim is accepted.
About 18,000 claims are currently being processed by the Navy and many more are expected to be filed. The Navy is having difficulties keeping up with the flood of lawsuits. It says additional funding and staff are needed to process all of the claims in a timely manner.
A large number of claims began coming in after President Joe Biden announced the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022. It was part of the PACT Act signed into law in August 2022. The legislation allows anyone harmed by the toxic water at Camp Lejeune to file a lawsuit against the federal government.
Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune
Tests by the U.S. government found trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene and vinyl chloride in the water at Camp Lejeune. The water became contaminated through off-base and on-base chemical spills. The off-site spill Is blamed on a dry cleaning business accused of improper waste disposal. That area has since been designated a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site.
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates up to 900,000 service members may have been exposed to the contaminated water. Tainted water also supplied the base’s hospital, barracks, housing, offices and schools. Diseases believed to have been caused by the toxic water include multiple forms of cancer, leukemia, renal disease, birth defects, miscarriage, malformations, skin disorders, cardiac defects, depression and anxiety.
A Journal of the American Medical Association study published in May found that people stationed at Camp Lejeune are 70% more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease compared to those who were stationed elsewhere.
The study compared data from the Veterans Health Administration and Medicare records of more than 300,000 veterans. Results showed that hundreds of Camp Lejeune veterans had developed Parkinson’s disease and many others who weren’t diagnosed showed potential early signs of developing the brain disorder.