Camp Lejeune was built on 240 square miles of land at the mouth of the North Carolina’s New River in 1941, and was home for countless soldiers and their families. But in the years between 1953 and 1987, the water at the camp was contaminated by hazardous chemicals that had concentration levels up to 3,400 times higher than safety standards allowed. Military personnel and their family members drank the water and bathed in it for extended periods of time, and later, many of them developed critical illnesses believed to be caused by the water.
The water at Camp Lejeune included cancer-causing chemicals and solvents used at a nearby dry-cleaning store; cleaning substances for military equipment; and leakage from fuel tanks stored underground. It's believed that more than 750,000 residents were exposed to the water contamination.
The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act
It's taken years for veterans and advocates to prove the link between the water at Camp Lejeune and the diseases suffered by the soldiers and their family members—an association that was critical for those residents to obtain some type of healthcare or disability compensation for their medical conditions.
On August 6, 2012, President Obama signed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 into law. This law required the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to not only provide healthcare to the soldiers who were assigned to Camp Lejeune and suffered from 15 specific illnesses, but also reimburse eligible Camp Lejeune family members (CLFM) for out-of-pocket expenses not covered by insurance for healthcare costs related to one or more of 15 specified illnesses. CLFM were allowed to apply for this reimbursement through the Camp Lejeune Family Member Program (CLFMP).
However, in 2016, in an update on the CLFMP by the VA, the agency reported that as of August, it had provided only 193 family members for claims related to the treatment for medical conditions related to the 15 specified illnesses. If you find it difficult to get your claim approved for illnesses caused by the contaminated water, or you want more information about the benefit reimbursement program, it may be helpful to hire a disability attorney.
Information on Healthcare Reimbursement for Family Members of Camp Lejeune
If you were a family member at Camp Lejeune any time between 1957 and 1987, you may be eligible for healthcare reimbursement if you meet the following requirements:
- You resided at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more.
- You were a spouse or a dependent of an active duty service member.
- You suffer from:
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Renal toxicity
The VA will also “reimburse costs associated with hospital care and medical services, as the last payer, for the Veterans’ family members, including those who may have been in utero, for the same 15 illnesses or conditions.” Once you submit a claim to the insurance company, you can apply to the VA to be reimbursed for any remaining balance of fees or charges connected to those illnesses.
Submitting Your Application
When you submit your application, you need evidence that you were a resident at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days during the designated dates and a legal dependent of the veteran who was assigned to the camp. Documents that you can provide as evidence of legal dependency include:
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Adoption papers
Documents that prove you were a resident of Camp Lejeune include:
Base housing records
- Military orders
- Pay stubs
- Utility bills
- Tax forms
If you have trouble finding the appropriate evidence, the VA will attempt to obtain it through the Veterans Health Administration, the Veterans Benefits Administration, and the Department of Defense. Even if you don’t send the proper evidence, the VA will still review your application, but confirming the information with other agencies may take a while and make your application longer to process.
We Can Help With Your Claim
If you’re a family member of a veteran who resided at Camp Lejeune from 1957 to 1987, and you suffer one of the 15 illnesses caused by exposure to the camp’s contaminated water, contact Cuddigan Law at 402-933-5405. We’ll discuss your eligibility for benefits.