Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune was established in 1941 and is located in North Carolina. Between 1953 and 1987, marines and dependents on the base may have been exposed to contaminated water on the base. According to the Veterans’ Administration website, www.va.gov, two on-base water wells that were shut down in 1985 had these chemicals: trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene, vinyl chloride, and other compounds.
On August 10, 2022, the PACT Act of 2022, which granted broad relief to veterans suffering the effects of exposure to toxic chemicals from a range of sources, was signed into law. Part of the PACT Act, Section 804, was a provision entitled the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 which will have a profound effect on veterans and their dependents who suffered ill effects caused by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. The threshold requirement is the individual had to be exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune for a period of not less than 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987.
This unprecedented piece of legislation allows veterans and their dependents to directly sue the United States for damages caused by the contaminated water. Until this Act was passed, veterans could not sue the U.S. based on the Feres Doctrine which blocked any such suit from proceeding. The Act also waived the sovereign immunity of the United States for such suits and waives the applicable statutes of limitation. Veterans and dependents filing suit under this Act have a two-year window in which to file.
I grew up in a Marine Corps household and am a veteran of the U.S. Army. Since this law was enacted in August, I have received dozens of emails daily from law firms and other entities—all insisting that I contact them to file my lawsuit. I have also seen many television and social media advertisements for organizations claiming to be the best source of legal advice regarding Camp Lejeune lawsuits. With the ongoing problem of scams and other fraudulent activities, I believe that many of these emails and advertisements are not legitimate. I reached out to my Veterans’ Service Officer for advice.
Veterans’ Service Officers (VSOs) on the North Shore have been given guidance on how to assist veterans and families with a claim. There are many variables that need to be considered. VSO Adam Curcuru from the Cape Ann Veterans’ Services office suggests that anyone needing assistance contact their local Veterans’ office.
- Beverly, VSO David Perinchief, 978-778-5000, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Essex, VSO Karen Tyler, 978-356-6699, email@example.com
- Gloucester, VSO Adam Curcuru, 978-325-5730, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hamilton, VSO Adam Curcuru, 978-325-5730, email@example.com
- Ipswich, VSO Karen Tyler, 978-356-6699, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Manchester, VSO Adam Curcuru, 978-325-5730, email@example.com
- Rockport, VSO Adam Curcuru, 978-325-5730, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Topsfield, VSO Richard Cullinan, 978-887-0335, email@example.com
- Wenham, VSO Adam Curcuru, 978-325-5730, firstname.lastname@example.org
If your VSO isn’t listed here, you can find your town’s VSO at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/find-a-veterans-service-officer-near-you.
If you believe you may have a legitimate claim under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, contacting your local VSO is a good starting point. The VSO should be able to advise veterans and dependents about the content of the Act with an honest assessment of what is currently known or unknown. It is important to remember that a VSO is not a legal advisor and should not be expected to recommend or not recommend a particular lawyer or law firm. A VSO can provide some guidance about how to choose legal representation, providing questions and situations to consider. Please remember that a veteran’s or dependent’s decision to hire or not hire counsel and whom to choose is a personal one. It is wholly the veteran’s/dependent’s responsibility to make the best choice for their circumstances.