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Thursday, June 20th, 2024

New legislation seeks to streamline cases for Camp Lejeune water victims

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As the legal actions over decades of contaminated water at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune continue, last week U.S. Reps. Greg Murphy, M.D. (R-NC) and Deborah Ross (D-NC) introduced a bill to remove barriers to veteran benefits under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act.

“Our brave veterans put their lives on the line to defend our country and should never face barriers to accessing the justice they deserve after exposure to toxic water during their time stationed at Camp Lejeune,” Ross said. “Included in the historic PACT Act, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act has enabled these veterans to finally seek damages in court. The legislation we are introducing today will make needed reforms to ensure that veterans nationwide do not face financial or logistical barriers to pursuing the long-overdue remedies they are owed.”

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 allowed veterans and civilians alike to file tort claims against the U.S. government over harms caused by exposure to contaminated water at the Marine Corps base. Chemicals found there have led to illnesses such as cancer, but identifying victims can often be tricky, as many of the victims have since spread out across the country. It’s estimated that contamination lasted decades, from at least Aug. 1, 1953, to Dec. 31, 1987.

Despite thousands of claims lodged against the government over the incident, less than a hundred have so far been settled.

With the Camp Lejeune Justice Corrections Act, Murphy and Ross want to turn things around.

“The Camp Lejeune Justice Act was established to rectify the injustices our veterans faced and streamline their access to rightful claims,” Murphy said.“However, many still struggle to benefit due to unforeseen obstacles. I am committed to ensuring that the brave men and women who served our nation, along with their families and civilian workers, receive the justice they deserve after enduring exposure to contaminated water. These updates will help alleviate the backlog of cases, ensuring timely resolution and closure for all that have been affected.”

The bill would do so by clarifying victims’ right to jury trials, capping their attorneys’ fees and expanding the jurisdiction of the case to help alleviate the backlog.