The PACT Act Is Signed into Law
On August 10, 2022, United States president Joe Biden signed the PACT Act, a bill that offers the most significant increase in critical health care and disability benefits to millions of veterans and their families in more than three decades.
The PACT Act includes the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, a bipartisan bill with significant implications for veterans who were stationed at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Camp Lejeune’s water was contaminated with hazardous chemicals for decades, causing many veterans and their loved ones to get sick. The new bill allows victims of water contamination at Camp Lejeune to file lawsuits and recover compensation for the harm done.
The legislation applies to civilian workers, military members, and their families who were exposed to Camp Lejeune’s poisonous water for a minimum of 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987. It has since been proven that the water contained toxins such as benzene, perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride.
“It’s estimated 1 million U.S. Marine veterans, their families, as well as civilian workers on the base may have been exposed to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune. 1 million. That’s 1 million people who may have been poisoned by contaminated water and experienced severe medical issues like cancer, miscarriages or birth defects from drinking, bathing and cooking with the water there. They now will finally be able to seek justice because of the passage of the PACT Act,” explains Ricky A. LeBlanc, managing attorney at Sokolove Law, a national personal injury law firm.
LeBlanc, who is also licensed through the Office of the General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), has decades of experience spearheading veteran-specific legal issues.
“We represent a great deal of veterans around the country for various matters, from asbestos exposure to 3M earplugs and more, and many don’t realize they have recourse outside of the VA to receive compensation. The signing of this bill into law sends a message to our veterans that Congress finally recognizes they deserve justice,” he says. “The key provisions of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, that have now become law, invite military members and their families to file lawsuits for exposure at Camp Lejeune and assert their legal rights beyond VA benefits. Our veterans and their families knew they signed up to make the ultimate sacrifice in war to defend our freedoms, but did not expect to be poisoned by our own government. I am relieved that these individuals will finally be able to seek justice, after years of having no remedy.”
What Is the PACT Act?
Under the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, benefits of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act will:
- Ensure that staff members of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) who manage screenings, such as lab testing and specimen collection, are well-trained
- Expand screenings and treatment services for veterans exposed to toxic chemicals, such as the ones in the water at Camp Lejeune
- Redefine and reevaluate the approach applied to verify exposure to toxins
Sergeant First Class Robinson, the bill’s namesake, was a member of the Ohio National Guard who died of lung cancer in 2000 as a result of extensive smoke exposure from burning pits while stationed in Iraq. To honor his legacy, his wife and daughter continue to advocate for victims of toxic burn pits as well as other toxic chemicals while in the line of duty.
Justice for Camp Lejeune Veterans
Through the PACT Act, Camp Lejeune veterans and their families who have experienced serious health issues — including many types of cancers, neurobehavioral impairment, heart disease, female infertility, and birth defects — may be able to seek compensation previously denied to them for their suffering.
Eligibility for veterans, reservists, and guardsmen requires an official diagnosis of one or more of the following health issues:
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease)
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma (plasma cell cancer)
- Myelodysplastic syndromes (disorder that affects blood cell production)
- Neurobehavioral effects (depression, anxiety)
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Renal toxicity (toxic kidneys)
- Scleroderma (inflamed, hard skin)
Prior to the bill, victims and their families were not allowed to sue for medical issues linked to Camp Lejeune water contamination, based on the argument that too much time had passed by since the incidents occurred.
Request a free legal consultation today to learn more about your options.
Voices of Veterans: Stories of Camp Lejeune Families
“Many families are going to feel like they are being seen and heard for the very first time. Many of us have lost our loved ones as a result of the toxic exposure, and this bill makes a statement that the military and the government acknowledge us,” expresses Chris Carberg, a Florida-based digital health entrepreneur.
Carberg, whose father was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2012 after serving at Camp Lejeune in 1957, understands the pain of Camp Lejeune veterans and their families all too well.
“I watched my dad suffer through countless surgeries and treatments that kept him from enjoying retirement and spending time with his grandchildren,” he recalls. “There was once a time when I believed that all families like ours were out of luck, but this legislation has the chance to make a huge impact.”
Originally from New London, Connecticut, Carberg’s father was a teenager when he enlisted in the military, maintaining the legacy of his grandparents who also served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“The last thing my dad would have expected back then was that water was going to take his life someday,” he shares. “Water: the most basic, life-giving substance on earth. That he wouldn’t die from enemies waging war against him and fellow U.S. Marines, but by something he thought was replenishing and sustaining him.”
After his father’s passing, Carberg’s mother was left with survivor benefits from the VA, which in many cases is not enough to help widows and their dependent children avoid financial hardship.
Although Carberg’s father did not initially demonstrate a particular interest in legislation related to this case, he experienced a change of heart upon meeting other U.S. Marines who had battled severe health issues resulting from toxic water consumption.
“I wish people knew how important it is to stand up and advocate for your loved ones, and that doing so is patriotic,” he contends. “My dad would be proud that the Camp Lejeune Act is a bipartisan bill and that it will help my mom, which is the only thing that ever mattered to him.”
Teresa, who was raised in a military family and later became a military spouse, also shares a connection to Camp Lejeune. Arriving at the base in 1989 with her son, she and her family eventually moved into Tarawa Terrace before welcoming her newborn daughter.
“Prior to this legislation, the biggest challenge for Camp Lejeune veterans was getting the VA to admit that their health conditions were actually caused by the toxic water,” Teresa says. “I hope this new bill will encourage the VA to step up and help our veterans who have been diagnosed with health issues since being stationed aboard Camp Lejeune.”
What Happened at Camp Lejeune?
The history of the water contamination at Camp Lejeune — named in honor of Major General John A. Lejeune, the 13th Commandant and Commanding General of the 2nd Army Division during World War I — spans more than 30 years.
More specifically, between 1953 and 1987, Camp Lejeune residents who were repeatedly exposed to the site’s tap water system, including drinking and bathing in the water, were later known to have been at risk for several long-term illnesses.
Nearly 40 years after the last recorded incident of the site’s water contamination, the new Camp Lejeune Act recognizes these harms and allows veterans who suffered from related illnesses to seek compensation.
Learn more about the history of Camp Lejeune, the decades of contaminated water at the base, and the passage of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act.
Get Help Filing Your Camp Lejeune Claim
If you or your loved ones were exposed to the toxic drinking water at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, you may be entitled to financial compensation — and our Camp Lejeune lawyers may be able to fight for your family.
For over 40 years, Sokolove Law has been helping veterans and their families access VA benefits and pursue a Camp Lejeune settlement for their injuries.
Request a free case review to see if we may be able to help you too.