For more than 30 years, from the mid-1950s to the late-1980s, military leaders blatantly ignored the dangers of toxins in the drinking water of Camp Lejeune. Thousands of our nation’s bravest warriors of the United States Marine Corps and other branches of service, along with their families, were unknowingly exposed to dangerous chemicals for decades. Worse, those that developed illnesses when exposed to toxic water while stationed at Camp Lejeune were often denied VA benefits or a way to receive compensation. However, a major wrong has been righted with today’s signing of the PACT Act into law.
We’ll dive into what this Act means for veterans and their families, who may now be eligible for health care and compensation.
What is the PACT Act?
The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act is an expansion of VA healthcare and benefits available to veterans and their families. The Act expands access for veterans of multiple wars, including Vietnam, the Gulf War, post-9/11 veterans, and those stationed at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987. This Act is one of the most significant expansions in the history of the VA and, frankly, is long overdue.
President Biden signed this bill into law today, which means more veterans are now eligible for expanded VA benefits and paths to compensation. The PACT Act adds new conditions developed from toxic exposure and burn pits, as well as Agent Orange and radiation. The VA will also be equipped to provide toxic exposure screening to each veteran receiving VA health care and help educate VA staff on proper treatment.
Inside section 804 of the PACT Act is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, which applies explicitly to veterans stationed there for 30 days or more from August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987. The Act applies to veterans but also holds provisions for veteran’s survivors. This means you may qualify for healthcare and compensation if you are a surviving spouse, dependent child, or parent of a veteran who died from their toxic exposure illness.
Who is Now Eligible for VA Benefits Under the PACT Act?
The PACT Act applies to veterans from multiple wars and duty stations around the world who faced toxic exposure during their service. These include:
- Gulf War and Post-9/11 Veterans
- Vietnam Era Veterans
- Camp Lejeune Veterans
To get VA disability benefits, veterans have usually had to prove that their service caused the condition. However, the PACT Act now expands what is known as “presumptive conditions,” which means the VA will automatically assume that the veterans’ service caused their condition. Still, the number of conditions has been vastly enhanced to include more diseases and illnesses.
It’s important to note that for those veterans and their families stationed at Camp Lejeune, there’s still a burden of proof to show the relation between the water at Camp Lejeune and their illness. However, the language in the bill is now broad to include that a relationship is even “likely.” This small change in the law makes all the difference in receiving VA healthcare, benefits, and possible compensation.
What Benefits Do Veterans Get from the PACT Act?
Veterans and their families will now be eligible for a wide variety of benefits with the signing of the PACT Act into law. Depending on where the veteran served, they may be eligible for free VA health care. Now that the PACT Act has become law, these veterans should apply with the VA to get benefits.
Remember, the PACT Act also expands veteran’s survivors’ benefits which means a surviving spouse, dependent child, or parent of a veteran may be eligible for benefits including:
- Monthly dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) payments
- A one-time accrued benefits payment
- Healthcare through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)
- A burial alliance to help with the veteran’s burial and funeral costs. In addition to those mentioned above, this benefit also extends to the partner of a veteran.
PACT Act Gives Veterans More Avenues to Receive Compensation
Beyond VA healthcare and benefits, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act allows veterans and their loved ones to file a federal lawsuit “to obtain appropriate relief for harm caused by exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune.” With an entire list of unimaginably horrific diseases, including certain cancers, leukemia, and female infertility afflicting the victims of Camp Lejenue’s toxic waters, this relief is a godsend. A lawsuit could help victims receive compensation for the mountains of medical bills, the years of lost wages they endured, the pain they experienced, and more.
Our firm has attorneys who honorably served our nation, who understand the VA benefits process and can help you figure out how best to approach a Camp Lejeune lawsuit. You can speak with one of these attorneys now for free. They’ll look over all of the details of your service, help determine eligibility, and chart a path forward.