Camp Lejeune Water Contamination and VA Disability Benefits

Veterans exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune between the mid-1950s and mid-1980s may qualify for disability benefits or an increased disability rating under a new Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) rule. The rule establishes a presumption of service connection for eight illnesses associated with the contaminated water. It applies to active duty, reserve and National Guard members who served at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River.

Landing Video

Additionally, under a 2012 law, veterans and their family members who lived at Camp Lejeune during the contamination period can receive certain VA health care benefits if they suffer from one of 15 illnesses linked to the base’s contaminated water.

Berry Law Firm can help qualifying veterans to appeal or reopen their existing disability claims and seek benefits related to Camp Lejeune water contamination. We work with veterans and their families nationwide. Contact us today to discuss your case.

Who Qualifies for Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Disability Benefits?

For decades, service members and their families drank and bathed in water at Camp Lejeune that contained high levels of toxic chemicals, including:

  • Trichloroethylene
  • Perchloroethylene
  • Vinyl chloride
  • Benzene

Finally, in 1985, the military shut down two wells that contained the contaminated water. The move came only after heavy pressure from veterans, families and veterans advocacy groups.

In January 2017, the VA published a new rule that makes it easier for veterans to obtain disability benefits or increase their disability rating if they suffer from one of eight diseases associated with the contaminated water. The VA presumes that the veteran incurred or aggravated the disease while in service at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River, which is located on the military base, and that the veteran suffers from a disability.

The presumptive service-connected diseases are:

Again, the VA presumes that these diseases are service-connected. So, the VA does not require veterans to provide proof that the contaminated water caused their illness. Instead, a veteran must prove the following:

  • The veteran received a discharge under conditions other than dishonorable from active duty, reserve or National Guard service.
  • The veteran served at Camp Lejeune (or MCAS New River) for a total of at least 30 days – consecutive or non-consecutive – between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
  • The veteran currently suffers from one of the eight presumptive conditions.

How Do New VA Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Rules Affect Your Disability Claim?

If you believe that you qualify for Camp Lejeune water contamination-related VA benefits, you have the option of undergoing  a medical examination. You can go to your own doctor or to a VA Medical Center. The examination will determine whether you suffer from a presumptive condition. If you do, you can take these steps:

File an Original Claim

If you do not already have a VA disability claim, you can apply for benefits online or complete and mail VA Form 21-526 to your local VA Regional Office. When you submit your application, the VA requires you to do the following:

  • Provide records that show you served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for a total of at least 30 days during the contamination period (listed above).
  • Provide medical evidence that shows you currently suffer from one of the eight presumptive conditions.

State in block 13 of the online application or block 11 of the printed form that you suffer from one of the presumed Camp Lejeune illnesses.

Existing Claims

If you already have a VA Ratings Decision which denied your claim, you must file an appeal within one year after the VA issues that decision or the decision becomes final.  A Rating Decision appeal is called a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). You file the notice with your VA Regional Office.

If the Regional Office does not satisfactorily resolve your claim, you can file a VAF-9 and appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) which will conduct a review of the Regional Office decision.

If the VA denied your initial claim or gave you a low Ratings Decision more than one year ago, and you did not appeal the decision, you may try to reopen your claim. The VA will reopen a claim if it includes new and material evidence such as the diagnosis of an illness that the VA now considers to be a “presumptive condition.”

If you have a VA disability claim and receive benefits, you may need to file a new claim. You would base the claim on new evidence of a disabling illness. Unlike a reopened claim, the VA will evaluate a new claim without consideration of any earlier claim decision.

Who Qualifies for Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Health Benefits?

A separate law, The Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, provides health benefits to veterans and their family members.

If you served at least 30 days of active duty at Camp Lejeune between January 1, 1957, and December 31, 1987, the VA will provide free VA health care for treatment of 15 “qualifying health conditions.” Those conditions are:

  • Esophageal cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Renal toxicity
  • Female infertility
  • Scleroderma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Lung cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Miscarriage
  • Neurobehavior effects

If you are a family member of a veteran who lived at Camp Lejeune during the above time period and suffer from one of those 15 conditions, the VA will reimburse you for all costs that health insurance does not cover.