Camp Lejeune Attorneys in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Service veterans in the past who incurred a disease or disabling condition because of exposure to toxins during their time of duty previously faced the burden of proving their medical condition was indeed service-related. That requirement has now been set aside for several diseases associated with toxins and burn pits by the enactment of the PACT Act, signed into law by President Biden in August 2022.
The PACT Act – short for “The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act” – now lists several diseases that have a “presumption of service connection.”
In other words, just having served at a particular site, in a particular role, and at a particular time is proof enough that you incurred your diseases due to your service. No proof is needed other than showing that you served at an affected site during the period of time in question.
The PACT Act covers events connected with defense and military operations from Vietnam and forward, but also extends benefits to those who were exposed to toxic drinking water while being stationed at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina founded in 1942 to train “the world’s best fighters.”
The PACT Act itself doesn’t directly cover Camp Lejeune, but the associated Camp Lejeune Justice Act, signed into law at the same time, does. As a result, those who were stationed at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and later developed a presumptive disease are now eligible for VA medical benefits, even if they previously applied for such benefits and were denied. Family members are also eligible if they resided at Camp Lejeune with their spouse.
If you or a loved one – now located in or around Tulsa, Oklahoma – were stationed at Camp Lejeune during the period covered and later developed one of the act’s specified presumptive diseases, or even an unlisted disease, contact the Law Offices of Jeff Martin to pursue your deserved VA benefits.
Our “Heavy Hitter” Team has a combined four decades-plus experience in helping others recover benefits and compensation for injuries and illnesses suffered because of the negligence of others. We also proudly serve clients throughout Eastern Oklahoma, including Muskogee, Bartlesville, and McAlester.
Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune
Several inquiries and investigations into the water treatment plants at Camp Lejeune turned up a multitude of problems that caused the drinking water to become toxic. The number-one outside source was a nearby dry-cleaning plant that dumped PCE (perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene) into the wastewater system.
To make matters worse, the Marines themselves dumped oil and industrial wastes into storm drains. Dogs used in radioactive testing were buried on the base’s property. In 1980, when a contractor showed up to dig for a parking lot, the dog carcasses were uncovered, and along with them, strontium-90. The parking lot was being erected on the former site of the base’s Naval Research Laboratory.
By the time all analysis had been completed, it was determined that the water at Camp Lejeune was 240 to 3,400 times contaminated above what is considered current safe drinking levels.
Injuries and Illnesses Considered to Be Presumptive
The PACT Act itself lists several diseases and conditions resulting from toxic exposure or burn pits that are to be considered to have a “presumption of service connection.” In other words, if you apply for benefits under the PACT Act, you do not have to prove the origin or cause of your disease – provided it is listed and connected to your service place and time. The list includes, but is not limited to:
Cancers – head, neck, respiratory, gastrointestinal, brain, kidney, reproductive, pancreatic
Lymphatic cancer of any type
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Interstitial lung disease
Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012
A previous law, the Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, provided access to the Veterans Administration health care system for any service member who spent at least 30 days while on active duty at Camp Lejeune during the period from August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987.
The act also listed 15 presumptive diseases that qualified the veteran for free health care (there is a copay otherwise). These diseases include but are not limited to, adult leukemia, bladder or liver cancer, multiple myeloma, female infertility, Parkinson’s disease, and more.
Claim or Lawsuit?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act now allows anyone who was at Camp Lejeune for 30 days, consecutive or not, between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, to file a claim or lawsuit to receive VA health care benefits for exposure to toxic water at the base.
Those eligible include not only service members and their families, but also civilian workers, contractors, and others who spent time on the base. There is a two-year window for doing so, and then the process closes.
Those who developed a presumptive medical condition from being at Camp Lejeune during the covered period should first file a claim for benefits with the Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the Navy’s Tort Claims Unit (TCU) in Norfolk, Virginia. A claim form is available online and can be emailed to TCU to expedite the process.
If you are denied benefits by the TCU, you can then file suit under the Justice Act. In fact, even if you are already receiving VA or other benefits, you can still file suit. However, any award you receive will be offset – reduced, in other words – by any benefits you receive or have received from other sources and programs, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
The PACT Act and the associated Camp Lejeune Justice Act are still new, only a few months in existence, and claims are mounting at a rapid pace. The system may be quickly overwhelmed and become somewhat dysfunctional. Delays will no doubt be inevitable.
Rather than go it alone and try to file a claim with the TCU for Camp Lejeune benefits, rely on the resources of experienced attorneys who are dedicated to advocating and fighting for people’s rights to benefits and compensation for injuries and illnesses caused by the negligence of others. We can help you navigate the system and avoid costly filing mistakes or omissions that can delay a decision or result in a denial.
Camp Lejeune Attorneys Serving Tulsa, Oklahoma
If you’re anywhere in Eastern Oklahoma and need to file for benefits connected with your stay at Camp Lejeune, whether as a service member, family member, or civilian worker, contact the Law Offices of Jeff Martin immediately. We can sit with you, discuss your experience at Camp Lejeune, and present you with your legal options going forward. We will help you fulfill all administrative requirements, and if needed, file a lawsuit to obtain the benefits you deserve.