What Camp Lejeune Veterans Should Do Now

Attention Camp Lejeune veterans and families:  If you’ve been watching our blog, you know we have been keeping up to date on the proposed VA rules to provide VA disability compensation to Marines exposed to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune toxic water.  Through each step of the VA’s rulemaking process, we shared big news about coming changes to VA regulations making it easier for Camp Lejeune veterans to receive disability benefits for disease and disabilities related to toxic water exposure there.  In case you didn’t catch that news, you can find one of our articles here.

Over a year ago, we had a blog that said, “To us, it looks as though these changes will take effect; now it is only a question of when.”

We are happy to say we got this one right.

VA has published the new rule creating presumptions for certain Camp Lejeune veterans, which means entitlement to VA disability compensation benefits.

You can find VA’s full press release here.  For those familiar with the presumptions related to Agent Orange for Vietnam veterans, this change will work similarly.

Camp Lejeune contaminated water Camp Lejeune: The Tragic Backstory

In case you have not heard, Camp Lejeune’s water supply was contaminated from leaking storage tanks that leached toxic chemicals into the ground water from 1953 to 1987.  Percholoroethylene, trichloroethylene, vinyl chloride, benzene, and other petroleum contaminants were in the water that Marines and their families used on a daily basis for bathing, drinking, and cooking.  Generations of Camp Lejeune veterans and their families have experienced higher than expected rates of a host of diseases.
For years, the government denied any connection between the toxic water and the health problems.  New scientific studies by the Veterans Health Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ASTDR) have provided solid evidence that there is indeed a connection between the contaminants and the wide array of diseases experienced by those who were at Camp Lejeune.

Rule Change for VA Claims Related to Camp Lejeune Toxic Water

Until now, Camp Lejeune veterans had to prove service-connection if they claimed their disabilities were related to exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.  That required evidence of toxic water exposure and a nexus to their current disability.  That was often too difficult and expensive for many veterans or their survivors.

Because each claim required so much scientific and medical evidence to be reviewed, it also created a claims processing nightmare for VA.  In light of the scientific studies, VA’s new rule creates a presumption that certain diseases are service-connected.  Those diseases are:

  • adult leukemia
  • aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  • bladder cancer
  • kidney cancer
  • liver cancer
  • multiple myeloma
  • non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease

Veteran’s Health Administration already has a list of presumptive diseases that qualify eligible Camp Lejeune veterans and their families for VA healthcare.  But, that list covers more diseases than the list of presumptive diseases for VA disability compensation.

What Camp Lejeune Veterans Will Qualify for These New Presumptions? Rating decision

The new rule limits the presumption to veterans with one of the listed disabilities who served at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987.

In a previous update we gave on the Camp Lejeune proposal, we said, “our attorneys believe the final rule could be in line with the rules already in place Camp Lejeune-related healthcare.  That is, if the veteran was stationed at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days, VA will presume he or she was sufficiently exposed to the contaminated water there.”

That prediction also held true.  The rule states that veterans eligible for the Camp Lejeune presumption must have been stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days.

Here is one important thing to note about this 30-day requirement: those 30 days don’t have to be consecutive.  You just need 30 days total during the time frame.  In other words, if you were a Marine training at Camp Lejeune for two weeks and then went back several years later for another few weeks (all within the period from 1953 to 1987), you could satisfy the 30-day requirement.

Do Reservists and National Guard Members Qualify for This Camp Lejeune Presumption?

Here is one major change: this new presumption will cover Camp Lejeune service of Reserve and National Guard personnel as well.  That is a dramatic expansion of VA’s statutory definition of “veteran,” which has been limited in the past to active duty only.

However, this change is not that obvious.  The rule creates yet another presumption that we haven’t seen with Vietnam veterans exposed to herbicides or other veterans suffering the secondary effects of TBIs.  This latest presumption is that affected Camp Lejeune veterans became disabled during their military service.

Here’s why that’s important.  Reservists and National Guard Members can only obtain eligible veteran status if they become disabled during active service.  Thus, with this additional presumption they come within the definition of eligible Camp Lejeune veterans.

What to Do If You Are an Eligible Camp Lejeune Veteran With One of the Presumed Diseases

We want to cover a few questions that you may have if you or a loved one served at Camp Lejeune and are considering filing a VA disability claim.

When should I file my claim for Camp Lejeune benefits?

Even when this rule was just a proposal in 2015 and 2016, we were urging disabled Camp Lejeune veterans exposed to toxic water to go ahead and file their VA disability compensation claims.

Then and now, our strategy is the same: Go ahead and file your claim now.  If you wait, you will miss out on the earliest possible effective date and lose out on months or years of potential benefits.

The new rule goes into effect March 14, 2017.  Approximately 1,400 claims have been “stayed” while this rule was being finalized.  Expect to receive a decision in the near future after that date if you are one of those veterans who had already filed.

Veteran receiving cancer treatment What If I Don’t Have One of the Listed Presumptive Diseases?

Remember, this new regulation only includes eight diseases right now.  They are the only ones that qualify for a presumed nexus between the contaminated water exposure and the current disability.  Based on what we know about the science behind these particular types of toxic exposures, we think it will change at some point.

After all, the VA has not been entirely consistent in its list of diseases.  It has a longer list of 15 diseases for which veterans and family members can receive VA medical treatment on account of Camp Lejeune water exposure.  Hopefully, the disability side will eventually catch up to the medical side.

Also, veterans’ advocates will likely push to expand the list of presumptive diseases.  As scientist publish more studies and connect more diseases, the list will likely expand.

The Agent Orange presumptive diseases list has expanded over the years.  The Nehmer case required VA to go back and grant Agent Orange claims that were originally denied but later covered by the presumption and pay benefits back to the date of the earlier denied application.

Because history could repeat itself with Camp Lejeune toxic water claims, you should file now even if your condition is not on the presumptive list.  Even if VA does not approve your claim now, new rule changes later could help you.

VA may have to go back and apply these new rules to your original claim.It could mean a substantial difference in the amount of benefits you ultimately receive. Again, don’t wait.  File your VA disability compensation claim for Camp Lejeune toxic water now.

We Are Here to Help Camp Lejeune Veterans and Families

If you or a loved one was stationed at Camp Lejeune and have questions about eligibility for VA benefits, we are happy to talk to you.  We provide free consultations to veterans and their families.  This article explains how that process works.

Setting up a consultation is easy.  Just call us at (770) 214-8885 or complete this consultation request form to set up a free consultation.

Travis Studdard is an attorney who focuses on representing veterans in VA disability compensation claims.  He regularly writes about issues that are important to veterans and their families.

You can subscribe to his Veterans Disability channel on YouTube.

I could not have asked for a better lawyer to represent my worker comp. case. Any questions I had during the process was always answered in a timely manner. Mr. Perkins really cared about insuring that I wasn't being taken advantage of during this process and helped us reach a settlement that I feel comfortable with. I would recommend this firm to my parents or children.syndel Laber
I'm so thankful and grateful for all the hard work Jason, Tina and Liz did for me. They went above and beyond to get the best outcome for me. They took the to explain everything that was going on with my case again I'm so thankful grateful and happy with the outcome of my workers comp case.Adrian Adams
First off, I must say thank you again to the office of Perkins Studdard. I appreciate all the hard work and dedication your office has shown to achieve a successful and happy outcome. You have forever changed my family’s life! Also, I wanted to give a special shoutout to Jessica Hyatt for her excellent attitude, advice, and overall professionalism throughout every step of this process. This journey has finally been complete after more than a decade of being denied and almost giving up. However, two of my old coworkers advised me that the office of Perkins Studdard had also successfully helped them achieve their proper rating too. Needless to say, this has been one of my best decisions in life. I can now sleep a little better and stress free knowing I finally got what I deserved all along. Once again, thank you for everything! And shoutout to Travis Studdard, “we did it.” Respectfully, Jonathon FloresJonathon Flores
My family and I are so grateful for Jason Perkins and his team. Jason explains thing's to detail and walks you through every step of your case. I would highly recommend Perkins Studdard for your legal needs. Thank you so much Jason and Tina!Chapin & Lea Anne Warner
The best I know for workers comp attorney'sDenise Williams
Jason really has helped me so much through this hard experience I have went through! And the ladies in the office was wonderful with any and everything I had questions about! I highly recommend using this lawyer office to everyone and Jason Perkins for sure!! Thank y'all for everything and making it easier to get through this long though experience! James HammittJames Hammitt
Thank you so much ! I received excellent representation from the entire Perkins Studdard Law firm, my VA claim was resolved and granted in a timely manner, they were hands on with me during the entire process. I would definitely recommend the firm to any veteran deciding to file a VA claim.Darrell Lynn
I would like to thank the law firm of Perkins-Studdard (Travis) and his team, for performing such an outstanding job, at every possible level, during my recent situation with the VA Disability Claims . From the first time I called and spoke with Mr Studdard with an overview of my situation, until the final settlement was executed (successfully I may add), I always felt that I was in good hands with this firm. Everyone in the office, Jessica, and April were responsive, approachable, knowledgeable, good listeners, and extremely professional. Mr. Studdard was realistic of the circumstances and of the potential difficult process that would lay ahead, should I proceed. I can’t say enough about Travis, and I will always be thankful to him. Travis was committed, and he instilled a real sense of confidence during both the highs and the lows. He ultimately prevailed and the outcome was very much in my favor. Of course, each case is different on its own merits and one can never predict how things ultimately will turn out. All I know is that the settlement far exceeded my expectation. Mr. Studdard has been a blessing to me. I strongly recommend that anyone who would find themselves in a similar legal situation with the VA to contact Law Offices of Perkins Studdard for a consultation. It was a very positive experience given the circumstances. Thank you again, I shall forever be in your debt.Concetta Hogg
Mr. Perkins, I cannot express enough how thankful I am for your exceptional representation. Your hard work, expertise, and unwavering commitment to my case have left an indelible mark. Thanks to you, I can now move forward with my life, confident that justice has been served.Esli Roque
Travis and his team have been a blessing for me and my family. They have done an amazing job in helping me navigate the VA appeals process. They kept their eye on the ball all the way through the long, difficult and confusing process. I highly recommend Travis and his team because thanks to their professionalism and know how, I got the benefits I deserve.Daniel patriot

Related Posts

Contrast:

Font Size: