Am I Entitled to Camp Lejeune VA Benefits?

On January 13, 2017, the VA released the final rule regarding presumptive service connection for conditions related Camp Lejeune contaminated water exposure. Under the rule, veterans who served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days from August 1, 1953 to December 31, 1987 and who have been diagnosed with any of the eight diseases listed in the rule are entitled to presumptive service connection for those conditions.

Presumptive Conditions

The following conditions are now considered presumptive for service connection for those veterans who spent the requisite amount of time at Camp Lejeune:

  1. Kidney cancer
  2. Liver cancer
  3. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  4. Adult leukemia
  5. Multiple myeloma
  6. Parkinson’s disease
  7. Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  8. Bladder cancer

In other words, veterans who spent more than 30 days at Camp Lejeune, even if those days were not consecutive, can be service-connected for any of these conditions without having to prove that the disease was caused by service. The veteran merely has to have the disease and prove he or she was at Camp Lejeune during the qualified time period for more than 30 days.

As this blog has covered before, most people knew the final rule would cover these eight conditions even before the rule was published. However, the finalization of these eight diseases as service connected does not preclude a veteran from getting service connection for other diseases caused by Camp Lejeune water. It simply makes the process of getting service-connected easier regarding these eight diseases. Veterans can still be service-connected for other conditions, usually by using medical opinions to connect their condition to exposure to the contaminated water.

Effective Date

The final rule was set to go into effect on March 14, 2017. However, changes from the incoming administration raised questions about whether the rule would still go into effect on the same date. On January 20, 2017, newly-sworn-in President Trump signed an executive order issuing a government-wide freeze on any new federal regulations. While the order contained a provision exempting “critical health, safety, financial, or other national security matters,” it made advocates and veterans wonder whether the Camp Lejeune regulation would go into effect on schedule.

These concerns were addressed on January 26, 2017, when Senator Richard Burr took to Facebook with a comment about the final Camp Lejeune service connection rule. Senator Burr, who had an active role in helping veterans effected by Camp Lejeune water contamination, stated, “Camp Lejeune veterans eligible to receive disability compensation under the recently published VA regulation will not be affected by President Trump’s recent executive order banning new regulations. The White House has granted an exemption.”

While the White House has not officially commented on the issue, this statement from Senator Burr assures that the effective date will remain unchanged and that the rule will go into effect on March 17, as planned.

Pending Claims

The final rule applies to claims received by the VA on or after the effective date of the final rule (March 14, 2017), and to claims pending before the VA on that date. This means that the new rule will apply to claims for the presumptive conditions which are already pending with the VA. These claims do not need to be refiled.

However, the rule does not apply retroactively to claims that are finally adjudicated. In other words, if a claim has already been denied and the appeal deadline has passed, this rule does not allow the claimant to reopen the claim with the original effective date. This is because of a regulation which does not allow liberalization of compensation rules to be earlier than the effective date of the act or the administrative issue.

Veterans Serving Veterans

The contaminated water found at Camp Lejeune has affected many veterans’ lives. If you were stationed at Camp Lejeune and have developed one of the eight diseases listed above, you may have the right to disability benefits.

Berry Law Firm was founded by three-tour Vietnam veteran and lawyer John Stevens Berry in 1965. We have been representing veterans for decades. If you are fighting the VA for your disability benefits, we may be able to help. Contact us today.