Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is home to more than 100,000 active military personnel, their families, and contractors. Today, the base is a thriving hub of activity, but from 1953 to 1987, a silent tragedy was unfolding, unbeknownst to those who were stationed there.
Chemicals were contaminating the base’s water supply, and these dangerous chemicals were slowly poisoning thousands of troops and their families. Due to a combination of lack of awareness, slow responses, and the nature of the chemicals, it would take decades for the full scope of the disaster to become clear.
In today’s article, we’re going to discuss what a presumptive illness is according to Veterans Affairs (VA), what illnesses are considered presumptive as it relates to Camp Lejeune, and a little bit of the history surrounding efforts to assist veterans and their families affected by this tragedy. If you’d like more information about Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits, Strom Law is ready to help.
What Are Presumptive Illnesses?
According to the VA, a presumptive illness is an illness that was caused by a veteran’s job duties while working for the military. This could be something like chronic pain due to a battlefield injury or medical conditions proved to have happened as a result of military service.
In the case of Camp Lejeune victims, it should be noted that the VA considers anyone who spent more than thirty consecutive days at the base between 1953 and 1987 to be at risk of having been exposed to these chemicals. Because of the nature of the chemicals, the VA has identified eight conditions that are considered presumptive as a result of exposure to the contaminated water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
- Aplastic anemia
- Multiple myeloma
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Parkinson’s disease
- Adult leukemia
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
It is important to note that this is simply the list the VA has ruled on so far. The diseases associated with Camp Lejeune water contamination are still up for debate, and there are several other conditions being identified as possibly linked, such as:
- Lung cancer
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Renal toxicity
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis
While the diseases listed above are not considered presumptive, that does not mean those experiencing them are not entitled to compensation. Many cases are making their way through the courts and new conditions are being recognized and connected to exposure to the chemicals at Camp Lejeune. Even if your condition is not listed above, you may be entitled to compensation, so don’t give up hope–reach out to a qualified Camp Lejeune water contamination attorney as soon as possible. Strom Law is extremely familiar with these issues and is currently working to represent veterans in several cases against the VA.
What Chemicals Were in the Water?
Initially, when health problems began to occur among people stationed at Camp Lejeune during the 1980s, the U.S. Government and its inspectors only admitted to a limited number of chemicals present in the water. In 2009, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) was forced to withdraw its previous 1997 study showing that cancerous effects were unlikely to come from the contaminated groundwater. The ATSDR admitted that benzene, previously omitted from prior testing, was the largest culprit due to the massive fuel leaks that had occurred.
What Has the VA Done So Far?
In 2012, after extreme pressure from the media, the victims, and their families, Congress passed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Act and the Janey Ensminger Act. Together, these acts offered free healthcare at Veterans Administration hospitals for service members, along with their families and children, who may have been affected by direct exposure. It also provided care for children who were in the womb at the time of exposure to the Camp Lejeune water chemicals.
These two acts, however, did not provide any form of monetary compensation to the victims or grant military veterans the ability to file lawsuits against the government for their injuries. Finally, in 2022, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was passed by Congress and signed by the president. The passage of this act will enable victims and their families to file suit and receive additional financial restitution in the form of disability payments or other compensation.