There is a new, more streamlined settlement option for collecting financial compensation for veterans and their families who were stationed, worked or lived at Camp Lejeune between Aug. 1, 1953 and Dec. 31, 1987, and were stricken with illnesses related to contaminated water at the military base.
On Sept. 6, 2023, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Navy announced a new Elective Option for those suffering from a list of diagnoses and Camp Lejeune settlement offers that have already been established.
For veterans and their families, there is a choice to be made between pursuing a Camp Lejeune lawsuit or selecting this new Elective Option. At Pintas & Mullins, we believe that it’s critical for those impacted by the contamination to consider all of the facts, advantages, and disadvantages of both options.
What is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act Elective Option?
The intent of offering eligible veterans the Elective Option is to more quickly and easily expedite compensation for illnesses caused by water contamination than they would otherwise receive by pursuing a traditional lawsuit. While the process is more streamlined and presents less of a challenge than initiating a complex VA claim, there are specific details veterans and their families should be aware of before choosing this route.
Who is Eligible for a Camp Lejeune Settlement?
Claimants with diseases that have been linked to the chemicals that contaminated the water at Camp Lejeune qualify if they have received either of the following diagnoses:
Tier 1 Diagnoses
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- Bladder cancer
Those diagnosed with Tier 1 diseases would receive Camp Lejeune settlement offers of $150,000, $300,000, or $450,00. These different amounts are determined based on the length of time the claimant was exposed to the contaminated water — between 30 and 364 days, between one and five years, or over five years.
Tier 2 Diagnoses
- Multiple myeloma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Kidney disease (end stage renal disease)
- Systemic sclerosis/systemic scleroderma
Those diagnosed with Tier 2 diseases would receive settlement offers of $100,000, $250,000, or $400,00. Just as with Tier 1 diagnoses, the Camp Lejeune settlement amounts are determined based on the length of time the claimant was exposed to the contaminated water — between 30 and 364 days, between one and five years, or more than five years.
Finally, an additional $100,000 would be awarded to claims that resulted in death.
What are the Pros & Cons of the Elective Option?
Camp Lejeune Justice Act Pros
Under specific circumstances, the Elective Option may prove more beneficial to some claimants for the following reasons:
- Faster settlement than a traditional lawsuit. While a traditional lawsuit can drag out for months and even years, once a claimant meets the criteria for the Elective Option and submits necessary paperwork, their payout is guaranteed within 60 days.
- Simplified proof requirements. With the Elective Option, a claimant must only prove they were diagnosed or began treatment for their disease before Aug. 10, 2022, at least two years after they were first exposed to the contaminants, and no more than 35 years after the last day they were exposed. A traditional lawsuit does not guarantee an award and a claimant must provide proof that the cause of their illness is directly related to the water contamination.
- No impact on disability awards, payments, or current benefits paid by the VA. Additionally, even if the claimant has been denied benefits by the VA, they may still be eligible.
- Less stressful than filing a lawsuit. Lawsuits can be long, drawn out, and difficult causing stress and disruption to someone who is already operating under the strain of serious illness and treatment. Because payout with the Elective Option is guaranteed provided all criteria is met, it enables the claimant to receive compensation quickly and easily without all the stress.
Cons of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act
- Capped awards. For those with progressive diseases like Parkinson’s, terminal, or chronic illnesses, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act may not adequately compensate for future, long term expenses that the Elective Option award won’t adequately meet.
- Limited awards for those with multiple conditions. The Elective Option limits awards to claimants for just one diagnosis. For those with multiple conditions, the Elective Option will only compensate for the condition offering the highest compensation level.
- Elective Option awards may not fully compensate a claimant. Because the Elective Option focuses on the cause of the injury rather than the damage and impact on a claimant’s life, those who have suffered significant hardship may not receive fair compensation. Job loss, lost wages, threats to housing, impacts on personal relationships, and emotional trauma are not taken into consideration or compensated for with the Elective Option.
- Limited award. The Elective Option is a one-time, limited award. It does not take into consideration future medical needs, so claimants with on-going and progressive illnesses may find the compensation inadequate.
Factors to Consider When Choosing to File a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit
As previously stated, a lawsuit can be a long, drawn out, and emotionally difficult process. What’s more, compensation is not guaranteed and could even be reduced from the amount bestowed through the Elective Option.
However, for those suffering from multiple diseases or progressive diseases, a lawsuit may be the best course of action. Additionally, a Camp Lejeune lawsuit can and will focus on the damages the claimant has suffered as a direct result of exposure to the contaminated water. Significant medical fees, devastating hardships suffered as a result of the exposure, along with future expenses will also be considered. This could significantly impact the possibility of or even the quality of treatment a claimant receives in the future.
Speak with One of Our Attorneys Today
At Pintas & Mullins, we understand that this can be a particularly challenging issue to navigate. It is important to weigh all the pros and cons and determine which option is best for you and your family.
We’re committed to serving those who have served our country and as such, invite you to contact us for a complimentary and confidential case review. We’ll answer any questions you might have as well as discuss any of your concerns.