Legislation would allow tens of thousands to exercise their right to legal action
Jacksonville, NC (August 24, 2021) — The Lejeune Justice group today announced a coalition of 12 leading Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and victims impacted by toxic water contamination who are demanding Congressional action. In a letter sent to the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, the group called on Congress to pass the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021 (H.R. 2192) immediately to provide relief for hundreds of thousands of victims.
“This legislation is a long overdue step to give those impacted by water contamination at Camp Lejeune their day in court,” said Stephen Patterson, the executive director of the Veterans Education Project. “For too long, Veterans who served our country bravely have suffered from the devastating impacts of toxic water. We are encouraged to see military base clean-up legislation this Congress, but what about taking care of the victims who are left behind?”
If passed, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act would allow any servicemember, family member, veteran, or civilian who consumed or bathed in the water at Camp Lejeune between August 1953 and December 1987 the right to file a claim for damages. This has historically been impossible due to restrictions that have been in place by a narrowly defined statute of repose in North Carolina.
“The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021 will finally bring relief and justice to the veterans and their families living in North Carolina. It was after these veterans and their families were exposed to hazardous chemicals that the North Carolina legislature set a 10-year span for claims, creating a legal impossibility for these victims. By the time veterans and their families realized they had to seek legal redress for injuries, the time to file for redress had long passed,” the letter said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 254,000 impacted individuals have registered their Camp Lejeune cases with the federal government. A majority of these victims are now concentrated in North Carolina, Florida, and California.
Thousands of victims continue to suffer from disease, illness, and cancers including bladder, breast, leukemia, lymphoma, kidney, liver, prostate and others. The number of birth defects and deaths amongst babies and children due to toxic water contamination amongst children is astoundingly high. One of the most egregious cases was the death of 9-year-old Janey Ensminger.
The letter released today said, “…the Janey Ensminger Act of 2012 authorized medical care for military and family members who lived at Camp Lejeune and developed conditions tied to the base’s water contamination,” but that there are still “barriers in place that prevent the victims of Camp Lejeune’s contamination from achieving judicial relief in North Carolina.”
The supporting organizations include the Military Chaplains Association; the Naval Enlisted Reserve Association; the Fleet Reserve Association; the Vietnam Veterans of America; AMVETS; the U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association and Enlisted Association; the Blinded Veterans Association; the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America; the Non-Commissioned Officers Association; the Jewish War Veterans of the USA; the Veterans Education Project; and the Special Operations Association of America.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021 has more than 50 co-sponsors and has been referred to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee for action. For more information on how to get involved in the Lejeune Justice effort, visit www.lejeune-justice.org.
About Lejeune Justice:
Lejeune Justice is a group of civilians, military families, veterans, and advocates who are fighting for justice on behalf of toxic water contamination victims who lived and/or worked at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina from 1953 through 1987. The Veterans Administration (VA) has confirmed that toxic water consumed by base residents and workers led to illness, disease and ultimately death in several thousands of people; dangerous levels of solvents such as trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) persisted for decades at the base.