The Camp Lejeune Justice Act Reads, in part:
“An individual, including a veteran (or) the legal representative of such an individual, who resided, worked, or was otherwise exposed (including in utero exposure) for not less than 30 days during the period beginning on August 1, 1953, and ending on December 31, 1987, to water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, that was supplied by, or on behalf of, the United States may bring an action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to obtain appropriate relief for harm that was caused by exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune.”
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act was signed into law by President Biden on August 10, 2022. This landmark legislation will at last allow veterans, civilian staff, and military families who served, lived, or worked at Camp Lejeune the opportunity to receive financial compensation for health problems stemming from exposure to the N.C. camp’s contaminated water.
The bill acknowledges that the government dropped the ball, at best — and lied, at worst — in failing to acknowledge and compensate Camp Lejeune’s victims sooner. Both the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and Department of Defense (DOD) had, for decades, failed to acknowledge and help more than a million United States Marines and their families, along with civilian staff, who were injured by Camp Lejeune’s bad water.
Camp Lejeune Water Problem’s Belated Fix
Many insist the U.S. military knew Camp Lejeune’s water was contaminated several years before it finally began closing contaminated wells in the late 1980s, at least three decades too late. Many also believe that even after the well closings began, some of Camp Lejeune’s wells in use today are still being contaminated.
After the truth emerged about Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water, North Carolina lawmakers changed the state’s ten-year statute of repose. That statute had prevented Marines and their families who were injured by Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water from suing the government for fair compensation.
The VA’s Checkered Camp Lejeune Legacy
Even after it became known that Camp Lejeune’s water had made and was making people sick, the VA refused to provide medical care to the camp’s victims. The VA claimed there was not enough evidence to prove the N.C. base’s water was causing the alleged injuries and illnesses.
The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act
In 2017, Congress passed the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which changed the field for Camp Lejeune’s victims. That law made it much more feasible for current and former VA workers to do the right thing and help military victims and their families. It also helped hold the VA accountable for its part in the Camp Lejeune saga.
Though people like Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assuange can readily attest that blowing the whistle on a government agency can be fraught with peril, it is nonetheless a positive development that even in these censorious times, it is still possible to bring accountability to high-level government players.
Like that VA and Whistleblower Protection Act, The Camp Lejeune Justice Act is a positive step on the road to helping the camp’s victims, and to bringing justice for those who were silenced for so long, and all but forgotten.