The recent connection of hazardous chemicals in the water at Camp Lejeune to neurobehavioral effects has raised many questions for Veterans who spent time on base at Camp Lejeune. These brave servicemembers and their loved ones have potentially been in contact with unsafe levels of chemicals known to have neurobehavioral effects following long periods of exposure.
The VA has recognized the serious plight of Veterans across the country and is offering compensation for medical expenses associated with the long-term consequences of exposure to toxic chemicals at Camp Lejeune. Many Veterans may question whether they qualify for these benefits or have been affected by exposure to unsafe water. We will discuss the answer to these questions in detail in this article.
There are four primary chemicals deemed hazardous by the FDA found in unsafe levels in the water at Camp Lejeune. These chemicals are trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene, and vinyl chloride, a chemical that has received significant scrutiny recently in the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment.
TCE is a highly potent toxin; any amount greater than five parts per billion (ppb) is considered unsafe for drinking water. According to testing by the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry, the levels of TCE in the water at Camp Lejeune exceeded 1,400 ppb. That toxicity exceeded the maximum safe levels at the time by 280.
PCE is considered equally hazardous by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), which rates the maximum safe contaminant level at five ppb. However, the levels of PCE detected in the Hadnot Point water treatment plant that once serviced most of the base reached a maximum of 215 ppb.
The benzene and vinyl chloride levels were also determined to be above safe limits at five ppb and 22 ppb, respectively, with vinyl chloride exceeding its maximum contaminant level at the time by a factor of 11.
These unsafe levels of hazardous chemicals were present in the water used by soldiers from August 1953 through December 1987.
Veterans who trained or served on the base during this period consumed an estimated one to two quarts of water per hour during seasons of intense heat, in addition to daily showers and exposure through food cooked with the contaminated water. The water provided by the Hadnot Point plant served not only the Marines and Navy Veterans stationed on base but also the family members and loved ones who lived with them.
Because of the high levels of hazardous chemicals detected in the water, the VA is extending compensation and other benefits to any Veteran stationed at Camp Lejeune for longer than a month between 1953 and 1987. This compensation is also available for family members who can prove they were present with their Veteran loved one.
The chemicals TCE, PCE, benzene, and vinyl chloride have all been connected to the development of various neurobehavioral effects when an individual is exposed to unsafe levels for extended periods.
If you are unsure whether your symptoms align with these descriptions, this helpful question and answer board will further detail which conditions are associated with chemical exposure at Camp Lejeune.
These chemicals have been connected to several common symptoms of impaired cognitive function, including learning disorders, problems with short-term memory, impaired motor skills (coordination, balance), concentration and focus issues, and general confusion.
These symptoms can creep into one’s life slowly, and it is important to recognize them and seek professional guidance to determine their cause. Feeling scattered, uncoordinated, or lost in everyday tasks could be connected to exposure to chemicals that cause or aggravate neurobehavioral effects.
Exposure to unsafe levels of any of the four hazardous chemicals found in the water at Camp Lejeune can also cause or aggravate physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, or discomfort.
If you or a family member suffer from headaches, dizziness, tremors, or involuntary muscle movements, these may be indicators that you have been exposed to dangerous levels of detrimental chemicals.
People exposed to hazardous chemicals have also reported developing anxiety. This neurobehavioral behavioral effect may be familiar to Veterans trying to process their experiences at home and abroad. If your anxiety developed or intensified while stationed at Camp Lejeune, you could have potentially been affected by hazardous chemicals.
Insomnia is another condition that may not readily present itself as connected to the water you drink; however, it is a common symptom of exposure to toxic substances and may be connected to your service.
The long-term neurobehavioral effects caused or aggravated by exposure to chemicals like TCE and PCE cannot be overemphasized. One such permanent effect is Parkinson’s disease. This condition involves a gradual degeneration of the central nervous system, manifested in loss of motor control, eventually resulting in death.
This serious condition has now been connected to exposure to hazardous chemicals, and it is important to have access to medical treatments and support due to its long-term degenerative nature.
The broad scope of neurobehavioral effects associated with exposure to unsafe TCE, PCE, benzene, and vinyl chloride levels can create significant uncertainty for Veterans and their loved ones seeking compensation. Still, there are steps you can take today to begin receiving the benefits you have more than earned through your service.
If you were stationed at Camp Lejeune for more than a month between August 1953 and December 1987, you are likely entitled to compensation and reimbursement for medical expenses caused or aggravated by exposure to the contaminated water on the base.
If you feel that you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above but have yet to seek medical help, this may be a wise first step. Getting a diagnosis and treatment plan in place can help provide proof that your condition was caused or aggravated by your military service.
You should begin compiling a paper trail if you have already received a diagnosis or begun treatment for any of the above conditions or symptoms.
Paperwork from doctor’s visits, medical expenses, utility bills showing family members lived with you on base, and even receipts for medication are worth compiling to ensure you are adequately reimbursed for expenses you have incurred due to neurobehavioral effects caused or aggravated by your exposure.
If your family is also seeking medical care for exposure-related symptoms, they can request that their physicians fill out a Camp Lejeune Family Member Treating Physician Report to help establish a permanent record of their exposure.
In the face of the daunting task of proving your service connection concerning Camp Lejeune, know that you are not alone. Even though many conditions have already been identified as presumptively service-connected, thousands of fellow Veterans affected by this chemical disaster are meeting heavy resistance against gaining access to the compensation they deserve.
The most important step to ensuring that you and your loved ones are fully compensated for the damage you’ve sustained is to seek qualified legal representation. A competent attorney backed by an experienced law firm that has a long history of connecting Veterans to the benefits they have earned will ensure that your interests are championed even when red tape stands in your way.
With over 10,000 Veterans served and counting and a team featuring former Officers and enlisted personnel family members, Berry Law will fight with you to ensure that your claim gets through the review process. If you are looking for competent, experienced legal representation by practitioners who know the system and its bureaucratic complexities, contact Berry Law today to get the help you need and the care you deserve.
The neurobehavioral effects of exposure to the chemicals found at Camp Lejeune are diverse and long-lasting. Still, taking action as soon as possible is important if you feel you may have been exposed.
If your condition is connected to your service, then Berry Law’s team of qualified legal advocates has the tools and resources to aid you in the fight for the benefits you earned. Contact us today to learn more.
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