Honorable Few – Capt. J.J. Harris

Marine Corps League Detachment #1302

Lawmakers seek to speed up claims for Camp Lejeune toxic water victims

Two members of Congress recently introduced a bill that would speed up federal claims for Marines and other service members who were exposed to toxic chemicals while serving at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Corrections Act, introduced Thursday by Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C. and Rep. Deborah Ross, D-N.C., updates the previous Camp Lejeune Justice Act, enacted in 2022 as part of the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics, or PACT, Act.

The updates will clarify that plaintiffs have a right to a jury trial, expand jurisdiction to reduce the backlog of cases currently in federal court, and cap attorney’s fees.

The original legislation allows servicemembers affected by toxic water at Camp Lejeune between Aug. 1, 1953 and Dec. 31, 1987 to sue the federal government for compensation.

“All of these cases are being jammed up in the Eastern District of North Carolina. It would be years and years and years before people would get the relief that they’re owed. And many of them might pass away in the meantime,” Ross told Spectrum News. “We want to make it so more courthouses can hear these claims, and so that we can get this process moving as quickly as possible for people who have been injured.”

Navy issues fraud alert for Camp Lejeune contamination claims

The original bill became law decades after victims reported increased cancers, neurological disorders and birth defects among children of troops stationed at the base during the timeframe.

Despite more than 227,000 claims and 1,700 lawsuits filed, only 63 settlement offers had been extended since 2022 and only 40 of those accepted for pay outs by claimants, according to the Camp Lejeune Claims Center.

“The Camp Lejeune Justice Act was established to rectify the injustices our veterans faced and streamline their access to rightful claims,” Murphy said in a statement. “However, many still struggle to benefit due to unforeseen obstacles … These updates will help alleviate the backlog of cases, ensuring timely resolution and closure for all that have been affected.”

Lawmakers raised concerns about a lack of caps on attorney’s fees as early as 2022, when the bill was passed. The new bill would put a 20% cap on any settlement and a 25% cap on any judgement, according to the bill.

In September, the Navy unveiled a plan to fast-track financial settlements for victims.

That process would grant $100,000 to $150,000 to victims of certain conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, kidney cancer and leukemia. Those who had not experienced those conditions but had other complications were still required to file civil claims against the government, Military Times reported.

In November, the Navy announced an updated Camp Lejeune Justice Act Claims portal to streamline the filing process.

In January, the Navy and Justice Department issued a fraud alert for claimants, citing reports of “unscrupulous people and companies” trying to obtain personal information using fraudulent emails and phone solicitations.