VA Benefits and Compensation for Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
Recently, I have had a few questions from veterans regarding the recent litigation around Camp Lejeune’s water contamination. The veteran’s question was usually in response to their seeing one of the nationwide advertisements regarding the class action litigation. Large firms are doing these advertisements to gather a body of clients to support their class litigation. Once the veteran contacts the number, the lead firm usually assigns the veteran to a local “subcontractor” rather than a member of the lead firm. I am not involved in any Lejeune litigation but wanted to provide a summary of the VA programs and benefits in response to the Lejeune situation.
The VA’s website notes that individuals who served at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune or Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River in North Carolina may have had contact with contaminants in the drinking water there. Contact with these contaminants has been scientifically and medically associated with the development of a set of specific diseases later in life. The VA has developed a presumptive list of diseases that entitle you to disability benefits if you meet certain service requirements.
The service requirements are easy, so let me start with those. First, the claimant must be a veteran, reservist, or guardsman who serves at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for 30 days between August 1953 and December 1987. The 30-day requirement is cumulative and not consecutive. For example, if you were a guardsman whose annual or weekend drill was located at one of the two locations and the total days over multiple drill periods was more than 30-days, you meet the test. Similarly, the way I read the rule is that 30-days can be additive between the two locations, so if you were at Camp Lejeune for 20-days, then sent to MCAS New River for 15 more days, then you would meet the 30-day test. The second service requirement is that your separation from service cannot have been dishonorable.
The more specific requirement to claim benefits is a disability due to one of the enumerated diseases. The VA has identified eight diseases considered presumptively linked to the veteran’s service at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River:
1. Adult leukemia
2. Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
3. Bladder cancer
4. Kidney cancer
5. Liver cancer
6. Multiple myeloma
7. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
8. Parkinson’s disease
Veterans who meet these requirements may be entitled to covered health care and/or disability compensation payments. Unlike most VA programs and benefits, the health care benefits are available to affected family members as well as the actual veteran. Like the veteran, the family member must have been on Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for more than 30-days during the relevant period. The specific health conditions eligible for treatment under the program are:
1. Bladder cancer
2. Breast cancer
3. Esophageal cancer
4. Female infertility
5. Hepatic steatosis
6. Kidney cancer
8. Lung cancer
10. Multiple myeloma
11. Myelodysplastic syndromes
12. Neurobehavioral effects
13. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
14. Renal toxicity
To apply for the benefits, the veteran can file using the normal process of an online claim, in person at a regional office, or by enlisting the help of an accreted representation for Veterans Service Officer (VSO). If a family member is applying for benefits, the VA has developed a Camp Lejeune Family Member Program Treating Physician Report (VA Form 10-10068b) to initiate the claim. The family member will also have to produce:
· Documentation of the relationship to the Veteran who served on active duty for at least 30-days at Camp Lejeune (like a marriage license, birth certificate, or adoption papers), and
· Documentation proving that the family member lived at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for at least 30-days during the relevant period, and
· Medical records showing the family member is suffering one of the 15 listed conditions, the date of diagnosis, and that you are being treated or have been treated for the illness.
The VA has produced a fact sheet outlining the benefits available to those suffering from Camp Lejeune’s water contamination. (Link) If you have any questions, I would be happy to discuss your options to address any possible claims.