In the early 1980s, the Marine Corps discovered two water-supply systems on the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Onslow County, North Carolina were contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). On October 4, 1989 The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added the base to the National Priorities List as a Superfund Site.
Military service members and civilians who lived or worked on this base between 1953 and 1987 ingested contaminated drinking water and bathed in water that had been contaminated with chemicals from the base water treatment facilities and a dry-cleaning company in the area. Individuals were exposed to over 3,000 times the safe exposure limits of toxic chemicals. These chemicals included volatile organic compounds (VOC) such as trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE); as well as benzene; trans-1,2-dichloroethylene (DCE); and vinyl chloride. For a full list of contaminants found at the site, see the EPA’s Camp Lejeune site report.
Honoring Our PACT Act
On August 2, 2022, the Senate voted to pass the Honoring Our PACT Act by a vote of 86-11. The bill was signed into law by President Biden on August 10, 2022. This bill includes the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act (Sec. 804 of the bill) allows for anyone who lived or worked on the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 and who were exposed to the toxic water at the base to file a claim against the U.S. government.
To formally open a claim, the government must be put on notice by way of an Administrative Filing. This is similar to a Standard Form 95 under the Federal Tort Claims Act; however, CLJA Administrative Filings have their own specific form with different instructions.
The form and instructions for completing and submitting can be found here on the U.S. Navy JAG website: Camp Lejeune Claims | Admiralty & Claims Division (Code 15) | U.S. Navy JAG Corps. The CLJA claim form can be submitted electronically by email or on paper through regular mail, but submitting electronically will expedite the process.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act imposes a 2-year deadline for the filing of claims from the date of enactment (August 10, 2022). This means claimants have two years to file an administrative claim, not a lawsuit.
After the form is completed, signed, and submitted electronically, the countdown for the government’s 6-month window to accept or deny a claim is triggered. Note that if no response is given after 6 months have passed, this should be deemed as a denial. Denied claims should be filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina. Most importantly, denial of a claim triggers a 180-day deadline to file suit.
There is a great deal of misinformation and confusion surrounding the process of filing claims for those injured at Camp Lejeune. Claims MUST be filed with the Department of the Navy. While the CLJA form is only one page and may look simple, it is easy to make a mistake. If the claim is not filled out properly, it will be rejected, not denied. If a claim is rejected, the claim is not preserved. DeGaris Law attorneys have attended numerous seminars on this claim process and have researched the process thoroughly. We are here to guide veterans and civilians injured at Camp Lejeune through this process and answer any questions.