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What Are the Presumptive Conditions for Exposure to Camp Lejeune Toxic Water?

What Are the Presumptive Conditions for Exposure to Camp Lejeune Toxic Water?

For over three decades, contaminated drinking water exposed thousands upon thousands of Veterans, their families, and civilian workers at the United States Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to a variety of toxic chemicals.

These substances, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), were present in extremely high concentrations between 1953 and 1987. Exposure to these chemicals can result in a wide range of devastating health effects, including various forms of cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, infertility, and Parkinson’s disease. Although Marines harmed by these chemicals could receive disability benefits through the Veterans Benefits Administration, they faced an uphill battle to demonstrate that exposure to toxic water caused their disease or disability. Dependents of those Marines had no means of recovery. In the years following the discovery of the Camp Lejeune water contamination, changes to VA healthcare law have made it somewhat easier for Veterans to access the benefits they need. Still, this fight is by no means over.

Navigating these issues requires understanding not only the circumstances that led up to VA benefits for Camp Lejeune toxic water contamination benefits but also a legal understanding of how Veterans can pursue compensation for illnesses related to this exposure. To this effect, the attorneys at Berry Law are here to provide guidance about the changes the VA has made to the presumptive conditions list and how these may affect your disability benefits claim. 

How the VA Determines Presumptive Conditions

If you’ve already applied for VA benefits, the concept of presumptive conditions and their connection to your VA disability rating is likely already familiar to you. Under the Department of Veterans Affairs guidelines, presumptive conditions allow a Veteran to bypass the criteria that would prove that his or her illness was related to military service. By defining a condition as presumptive, this concept assumes that certain conditions are linked to exposure. This system can make it easier for Veterans to be considered for disability compensation. 

Changes to the Camp Lejeune Presumptive List of Conditions

In the decades following the chemical exposure at Camp Lejeune, a high number of VA claims were denied, and many Veterans were left with no avenue to recourse. In 2015, a major turning point occurred when the VA announced that Marines and their dependents who were exposed to toxic water could seek medical care, or reimbursement for medical care, for 15 different conditions but had no means of recovery otherwise. However, there was still no mention of a presumptive service connection for these conditions. 

In 2017, Congress designated eight conditions as presumptive conditions for Marines who had been stationed at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days. In doing so, the VA lessened the burden of proof required for Veterans seeking disability benefits for certain illnesses.

In 2022, the Honoring Our Pact Act created a legal avenue for Veterans who had served at Camp Lejeune to pursue compensation beyond healthcare costs. The benefits included in the Act now include compensation for losses such as pain and suffering, lost wages, permanent disability, and more. 

The Contaminants in the Camp Lejeune Water Supply

Water sample testing at the various treatment plants at Camp Lejeune revealed the presence of various VOCs which can easily enter the human body through ingestion, inhalation, or event contact with the skin. These include trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene or perchloroethylene (PCE), and benzene. 

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Trichloroethylene (TCE) 

TCE is a clear liquid that’s frequently used as a degreaser and paint remover, among other uses. Cumulative exposure to this chemical is associated with several cancers, including kidney, liver, cervix, and lymphatic cancer. In addition, conditions such as liver disease and impaired neurological function may also be linked to exposure. 

Tetrachloroethylene/Perchloroethylene (PCE)

PCE is a liquid frequently used in textile processing and dry cleaning. It is colorless and nonflammable. It may cause a range of neurological effects, as well as conditions of the liver and kidneys. Exposure to PCE may be linked to an elevated risk of several cancers, including bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. 

Benzene

Benzene is a liquid that evaporates in the air and exists both naturally and as the result of manmade chemical processes. This substance may be linked to a range of serious conditions, including leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and anemia. 

Camp Lejeune Presumptive Conditions (2024) 

The Department of Veterans Affairs now recognizes several conditions as potentially linked to exposure to toxic water at Camp Lejeune. These determinations are based on the available research on these contaminating substances and their effects on human health. Currently, conditions that are considered presumptive for exposure to toxic water for veterans include:

  • kidney cancer,
  • non-Hodgkin lymphoma,
  • bladder cancer,
  • adult leukemia,
  • multiple myeloma,
  • aplastic anemia,
  • Parkinson’s disease, and
  • liver cancer

Family members who were at Camp Lejeune or Marine Corps Air Station New River for at least 30 days can get health care or reimbursement for health care for the following health conditions:

  • bladder cancer,
  • breast cancer,
  • esophageal cancer,
  • female infertility,
  • hepatic steatosis,
  • kidney cancer,
  • leukemia,
  • lung cancer,
  • miscarriage,
  • multiple myeloma,
  • myelodysplastic syndromes,
  • neurobehavioral effects,
  • non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,
  • renal toxicity, and
  • scleroderma

While the addition of presumptive conditions to VA guidelines has opened many avenues for recovery for Veterans and their families, applying for disability benefits due to toxic water is still undoubtedly a complex undertaking. The process involves precise documentation, adherence to deadlines, and an understanding of how the VA processes these claims. For these reasons, the seasoned attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping Veterans achieve justice and results. If you require assistance in appealing a VA decision, increasing your VA rating, or have another legal matter related to Camp Lejeune to discuss with our attorneys, reach out to Berry Law today.

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

John S. Berry, Jr.
John S. Berry, Jr., Camp Lejeune water contamination attorney

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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