There was a water contamination crisis at Camp Lejeune over several decades, which led to hundreds of thousands of people suffering lifelong medical conditions. After years of contention, efforts are now being made to compensate parties who suffered harm from the negligence in Camp Lejeune. Veterans and their families can seek disability benefits and payment from the VA.
If you meet the VA disability eligibility requirements, you will receive healthcare and medical services at no cost to you. However, if you face a VA health or disability claim denial or if the VA does not respond within six months after you submit a claim, you need to take legal action by filing a Camp Lejeune lawsuit with the help of George Sink, PA Injury Lawyers.
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What Medical Conditions Qualify?
Under the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, there are 15 conditions eligible for healthcare benefits and eight presumptive disease conditions. All conditions are the result of the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. The fifteen covered medical conditions are:
- Breast cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis
- Lung cancer
- Myelodysplastic syndrome
- Renal toxicity
- Multiple myeloma
- Neurobehavioral effects
Disability benefits through the VA cover these eight conditions:
- Liver cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic Armenia
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Bladder cancer
- Parkinson’s disease
When the Camp Lejeune Justice Act passes into law, it will be slightly easier for veterans and their families to get the compensation they deserve. Many diseases are not listed as there is still much research to complete.
Are There Reimbursement Options or Health Care Services?
Family members of service members and others on base during the Camp Lejeune water contamination period can receive reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical expenses before getting medical attention from the VA. Additionally, the VA will only reimburse you for these costs once all of your health plans are exhausted. As a relative of a service member, it can be challenging to live with the condition and watch their loved one suffer when all they were doing was serving this country and protecting our freedom.
How Do I Apply for Disability Benefits?
There are options to apply for disability benefits. You can apply for disability benefits online using the eBenefits platform. When you file, you must select the option stating you are filing disability for a presumed Camp Lejeune illness.
You must give the VA medical documentation and proof of Camp Lejeune residency. You can also apply for VA disability in person at a regional office. You also have the option to work with an accredited agent or representative.
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What Documents Do I Need for VA Disability Benefits?
Evidence that you need to provide to the VA to show you are eligible for reimbursement or health care benefits looks slightly different for veterans compared to their families. Immediate family members provide documentation that they have a dependent relationship with a veteran who resided at Camp Lejeune.
Documenting can include a birth certificate or a marriage license. Next, there must be documentation that the veterans and the family member both resided on base for thirty days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987. Examples of documentation would be orders, housing records, or anything else that shows your residency status at the time.
Documents for Reimbursement Cases
For reimbursement cases, you will need to provide documents showing paid health care expenses for qualifying medical conditions out of pocket. There are some stipulations regarding specific dates of service that can complicate your claim slightly. You can only receive reimbursement for expenses on medical claims and care up to two years before the date of application.
Additionally, there must be medical evidence that shows you have a medical condition on the list. The VA presumes that your service at Camp Lejeune was the cause of your medical condition; that is the one caveat where many claims face denial. George Sink, PA Injury Lawyers can help you seek VA health and disability benefits and seek a financial settlement through legal action.
You must have a condition on the list that can not cause another situation. You will need strong representation to ensure you get the payment you deserve for your medical condition and ailments.
What Healthcare Benefits Are Available for Camp Lejeune Veterans?
Upon meeting eligibility requirements, all service members and their families have Priority Group 6 access for VA health care enrollment. This distinction places Camp Lejeune victims in the same category as service members exposed to radiation during WWII from nuclear weapons. When you enroll in VA health care, you will have treatment for your condition 100% covered.
Copayments are also covered. Additionally, family members eligible for VA health care can receive reimbursement for medical treatment and out-of-pocket expenses. Reimbursement is only possible after your primary insurance pays for treatment.
The VA reimbursement program acts as a secondary payment option for family members who are ineligible for the VA healthcare benefits for Camp Lejeune water contamination.
Who Can Seek VA Benefits?
Veterans and their families can seek VA benefits and compensation for their medical conditions. One caveat to remember is that service members must not be dishonorably discharged. There were over one million military personnel affected by the water contamination, and many have gone on to live without being aware of the exposure.
It is estimated that there are nearly 1 million people who suffer from a medical condition resulting from the consumption of toxic water. Everyone who consumed the water and now has a lifelong illness must be able to seek compensation and health benefits. Remember, not every service member at Camp Lejeune consumed the toxic water – certain areas of the Camp had clean drinking and bathing water.
In contrast, drinking water is safe today, but the ramifications of toxic water are prevalent. It is vital to discuss your eligibility with an attorney who is involved in the veteran’s community and knows firsthand how victims feel physically and mentally.
What Are the Effective Dates to Obtain Healthcare Benefits?
There is a substantial timeframe where contamination occurs, and any base residents can file for benefits during this time. Veterans, National Guard, and reserve members, along with their families, are all parties who can obtain VA health and disability benefits. Applicants must have taken residence on the base between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, for a minimum of 30 days cumulative.
What Is a Presumptive Service Connection?
Essentially the VA is presuming that your medical condition was a direct result of your exposure to water contamination at Camp Lejeune. Under presumptive service connection, if you have one of the current eight medical conditions, you may be eligible for VA disability compensation.
However, even if you have a condition that is not on the list, you can still apply for VA disability benefits and take legal action for compensation for recovery from your ailments. While it will be more complex to apply, you will need medical documentation proving your conditions resulted from the Camp Lejeune water contamination.
What Is a Direct Service Connection?
In cases where your medical condition is not on the presumptive list, you must show a direct connection. Direct service connection applies to a service connection before March 2017 as well. There are three elements you must show to prove a direct service connection:
- Current diagnosis from a medical professional
- Evidence that you faced exposure to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune
- A medical opinion linking the water contamination and your diagnosed condition
It is challenging to provide sufficient evidence, but you can provide the following documentation to help your direct service connection claim:
- VA medical records
- Pension and compensation exam results
- Service records
- Private medical records
- Lay statements
You can also use the US government and other agencies’ research regarding the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. Additionally, the PACT Act will expand protections for medical conditions that veterans may have been exposed to aside from those at Camp Lejeune.
What Happened at Camp Lejeune?
Starting in the summer of 1953, the water at Camp Lejeune was not being filtered correctly by the two local treatment plants, Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point. A nearby dry cleaner was the underlying cause of some of the contaminants, and all water was supposed to be filtered before making it to the residents on the base; it was not.
The chemicals coursed through the water at Camp Lejeune for nearly 20 years and wreaking untold damage to those who came into contact with it. The most prevalent chemicals were:
- Vinyl chloride
All these and the 70 total chemicals in the water cause cancer and other life-altering conditions. After many investigations, water testers found that all dry cleaners use harsh chemicals and transport these toxic chemicals. There are much harsher regulations regarding the disposal of harmful substances to avoid another tragedy like that at Camp Lejeune.
Sadly, this does not change the past, and thousands of people still suffer from the negligence of various parties at Camp Lejeune. By 1987, the water wells were shut down, but it was far too late for the hundreds of thousands of service members and their families who had already consumed the water. (You can read our full article if you want to learn more about what happened at Camp Lejeune.)
What Happens Now?
Even after these findings, not much was done to remedy the situation. The United States government attempted to contact individuals and provide aid, but they did not make these findings public. The lack of publicity caused victims to continue to go through life with untreated or worsening medical conditions.
The delay in the notice may have also led to many claim denials for these conditions.
What Happens if a Claim Is Denied?
When the VA denies your application for disability, you have options. You can file an appeal, also known as a Notice of Disagreement. You cannot file the appeal after one year.
VA disability claim denial appeals are notorious for being impossible to win. However, when you have an attorney on your side, the appeals process can go much smoother.
When you receive a VA claim denial, it can feel like the entire world is crashing down upon you. However, you still have viable options to seek legal action and secure compensation for your Camp Lejeune water contamination claim. Do not be discouraged when you receive a claim denial. Instead, call an attorney with a strong approach and who is willing to fight for your rights.
Seek a Financial Settlement Through Legal Action
The water contamination affected any area inside Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River boundaries. Service members and their spouses are affected, but also their children.
Since many of these medical conditions affect fertility and the development of a fetus, there were many heart-wrenching miscarriages. When babies made it to term, they had defects and medical conditions that lasted a lifetime.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act set to pass into law soon also allows children of service members to file claims. For example, you were in the wound when your mother consumed the toxic water, which she then passed on to you. Upon your birth, you show signs that there is a severe medical condition.
Call George Sink, PA Injury Lawyers Today
If you were stationed at Camp Lejeune, apply for VA disability benefits and seek a financial settlement through legal action. George Sink, PA Injury Lawyers has the necessary experience to fight for your rights and get the benefits and payment you deserve for your ailments resulting from the Camp Lejeune water contamination.
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