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Lawmakers Move To Help Victims of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

Close to two thousand lawsuits have been filed against the federal government related to the human cost of what the online publication Roll Call reports as “decades of contaminated drinking water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.” But progress on those lawsuits is slow and some in Washington want to change that.

It’s telling that so many lawsuits were filed in the first place, but after more than a decade of litigation, following the first Camp Lejeune contaminated drinking water lawsuit in 2009, lawmakers have decided enough is enough. They are introducing bills to speed up the process and help families who had to resort to suing the federal government.

Unanimous Bipartisan Support for Camp Lejeune Legislation

In an era where it’s nearly impossible to get a bipartisan measure through the House or Senate, one Camp Lejeune bill passed the Senate with zero opposition in June 2024. Some feel that’s a telling moment in the contaminated drinking water story.

If passed, that bill would provide pro bono services to plaintiffs and legal counsel who need information and guidance on disability benefits, payments, or ratings. It’s a step toward speeding up the process of settling the claims.

Another June 2024 bill introduced in the House expands a law (passed in 2022) that allows the victims of Camp Lejeune water contamination to sue the federal government for damages and seek a jury trial. Since the original law passed in 2022, victims have had 24 months to submit Camp Lejeune claims.

Camp Lejeune Jury Trials

Roll Call reports, “A key piece of the House bill is to allow plaintiffs to request jury trials after the federal judges ruled that Congress did not delineate that right two years ago…” Under the law, victims can apply to the Navy for damages and move the claims to a federal court if there is no resolution within 180 days.

Since 2022, more than 230 thousand claims have been filed with the Navy, and nearly 2000 lawsuits have been filed.

Critics say the Department of Defense should take more proactive steps to work with the families affected by decades of unchecked water contamination rather than forcing military families with medical conditions associated with drinking contaminated Camp Lejeune water to sue the government in court.

How Bad Was Camp Lejeune?

Many ask, “How bad was Camp Lejeune water?” For some, the answer lies in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ response. On the VA official site, we find the following:

“As a part of the Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, qualifying Veterans can receive all their health care (except dental care) from VA if they served on active duty at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, even if they don’t have a health condition that is presumed to be related to exposure (emphasis ours.)

One Million Potentially Exposed To Solvents and Benzene In Camp Lejeune Drinking Water

The facts: nearly one million Marines and family members were exposed to toxins in base drinking water. This exposure occurred between the 1950s and the 1980s. VA.gov reports those serving during the affected dates may have been exposed to:

  • Trichloroethylene (TCE)
  • Perchloroethylene (PCE)
  • Benzene

There are 16 medical conditions presumed by the VA to be service-connected for those who served at Camp Lejeune during qualifying periods. They include:

  • 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/Parkinson’s disease

To date approximately 60 legal settlements worth over $14 million have been awarded over the drinking water issue at the North Carolina Marine Corps base.

The Department of Justice offered payouts of up to over half a million dollars depending on the severity of the health consequences of serving at the Marine Corps base in North Carolina during the affected periods.


About the author


Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.