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Lejuen lawsuits, the rest of the story

W. R. Boughner TMCS(AW/SW) USN Ret Newton County Veteran’s Service Officer Telephone: 409-379-9017

Fax: 409-379-2058 Okay, Vets, The TV ads have been relentless recently posting, “If you or someone you love served at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune prior to 1988, you may be eligible for financial compensation! But most who served there will never see a penny from it, and those who do probably won’t see any money for months or years. You, Vets, need to make sure you’re well informed before you make any decisions about getting involved with these lawsuits because it could actually cost you money. The last thing you want to see is a reduction in your benefits. What they, the lawyers, are talking about is a provision in the recently passed Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, or the PACT Act. It includes almost $300 billion in new financial benefits for veterans suffering from illnesses caused by burn pit smoke in Iraq and Afghanistan, Agent Orange spraying in Vietnam, and a few other military toxic exposures. It also contains provisions that allow civil suits against the government for injuries related to water contamination at the Marine Corps base from August 1953 to December 1987. More than one million individuals could be covered by the bill. This is NOT going to guarantee an automatic payout. No one knows right now how the VA will interpret the 150 pages of legislation until the VA publishes regulations. The biggest concern is whether veterans who are eligible for disability payouts and VA health care may lose access to those benefits if they sue the government and win. Coupled with potential attorney fees, that could actually end up costing you more than they receive. Right now VA officials say they won’t penalize you by denying pending disability claims or cutting services simply for filing a lawsuit related to the Lejeune Justice Act but, that may change. They did note, however, that if a lawsuit is successful, “any award must be offset by the amounts of VA benefits provided in connection with health care or disability relating to exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune.” What that means is that for Veterans who already get some help, there could be a dollar-for-dollar offset. A lawyer familiar with the litigation said that even successful lawsuits are likely to take months or years to complete. He estimates the first payouts from the new law likely won’t materialize until summer 2024 at the earliest, and only for the cases that are easiest to prove: severe injuries with no clear explanation but the poisoned water. “In order to win these cases, people are going to have to prove not just that they were there, but that they were hurt,” he said. “More than one million people were exposed. But you have to also show injury in order to win the case.”



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