The military knew early on there was a problem with the water supply on the Camp Lejeune base, and they chose to do nothing. For decades, veterans, their families, and others who resided or worked at Camp Lejeune were exposed to toxic chemicals, many of whom developed cancer or other life-threatening diseases. In 2017 the Department of Veteran’s Affairs recognized eight medical conditions associated with contaminants found in the early 1980s at Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps Base in Lejeune, NC.
The water supply systems were contaminated with the volatile organic compounds trichloroethylene (TCE), a metal degreaser; perchloroethylene (PCE), a dry cleaning agent; benzene; and vinyl chloride. For the health condition to be considered a presumptive service-related connection, the veterans must have served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and later developed the illness. This was a victory for veterans seeking benefits for what they believed were service-related health issues.
However, in 2017, the right to seek compensation for Camp Lejeune-related health conditions did not apply to the veteran’s family members or civilian workers who contracted and suffered from the same illnesses and conditions. Multiple myeloma is one of those conditions.
Multiple myeloma is a benzene-related cancer affecting bone marrow and plasma cells. It is well-documented that exposure to toxins, including benzene, can lead to multiple myeloma. This malignancy creates abnormal plasma cells, crowding healthy white and red blood cells.
As a single abnormal cell begins to divide, the volume of cancerous cells prevents the body from producing the healthy normal cells needed to fight infection. In the initial stages of multiple myeloma, there are no symptoms; as a result, the cancer is already at stage three by the time it is diagnosed. While there is no known cure for multiple myeloma, treatments are available that can prolong a person’s life.
Symptoms of multiple myeloma
The individual signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma, in and of themselves, are vague and can be warning signs of other health conditions. Symptoms can vary, and in the early in the disease, there may be no symptoms at all.
When signs and symptoms do occur, they can include:
- Bone pain, especially in your spine or chest
- Loss of appetite
- Mental fogginess or confusion
- Frequent infections
- Weight loss
- Weakness or numbness in your legs
- Excessive thirst
Complications of multiple myeloma
Myeloma cells inhibit the body’s ability to fight infections.
The rate of infection in patients with multiple myeloma is much higher than in the general population, including:
- Septicemia (blood infection)
- Kidney infection
- Osteomyelitis (bone infection)
Infection is a significant concern for patients with multiple myeloma and a leading cause of death.
Multiple myeloma can cause thinning of the bone, fractures, and pain in the back and hips.
Myeloma cells multiply quickly and form tumors called plasmacytomas that usually grow inside the bones.
Heart and Kidney Damage
Myeloma cells can lead to congestive heart failure and total kidney failure without proper treatment.
High blood calcium
High calcium levels can result in:
- Extreme thirst
- Frequent urination
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
Possible diagnostic tests for the detection of multiple myeloma
- Blood counts
- Blood chemistry tests
- Urine analysis
- Bone marrow biopsy
- Fine needle aspiration
- Core needle biopsy
- CT scan
- PET scan
There is no cure for multiple myeloma, but there are treatment options that may improve the quality of life and prevent the spread of the disease. Patients often receive a combination of chemotherapy, antibiotics, and analgesics. Additional treatment options, such as radiation therapy, can be tailored and targeted to a specific location in the body. Depending on the patient’s personal preference, a stem cell transplant is also a possible course of treatment.
When the myeloma cells divide and grow, they can cause damage to the bones and affect the blood, kidneys, and immune system. This condition is life-threatening, the symptoms can be painful and debilitating, and the treatment options are expensive. The bottom line is this is a severe medical condition— the VA recognizes this and gives multiple myeloma a disability rating of 100 percent.
New Pathway to Seek Justice
Victims of the injustice at Camp Lejeune have spent decades (or sadly, their entire life) dealing with diseases requiring extensive and expensive medical care. Some have permanent complications, some may require round-the-clock medical care, and some are severely disabled. Most experienced a reduced quality of life as they battle anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues in addition to their injuries.
All of the affected families have no doubt experienced significant financial losses. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act became law on August 10, 2022, giving qualified applicants a two-year window of opportunity to pursue compensation.
Those qualified persons include veterans, family members, and civilians who:
- Lived or worked at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987;
- Were exposed to contaminated water for at least 30 days (including in utero exposure); and
- Diagnosed with multiple myeloma or any of the following chronic health conditions:
- Acute myeloid leukemia
- Brain cancer
- Breast cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Central nervous system cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Colon cancer/colorectal cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Prostate cancer
- Rectal cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Congenital disabilities
- Female infertility
- Parkinson’s disease
- Renal Toxicity/kidney disease
- Kidney damage
- Hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease)
- Aplastic anemia
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Epilepsy (seizures)
- Immune disorders
- Nerve damage
- Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS or pre-leukemia)
- Neurobehavioral issues
The Benefits of Working With a Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Contamination Attorney
While Camp Lejeune claims are technically a claim for personal injury, the filing requirements are far more complex. To begin with, the “defendant” in these cases is the United States Federal Government. There is no doubt about fault or responsibility, as the military has finally admitted fault. The caveat is that the government controls the policies and procedures. There is a defined protocol for filing a claim, the government must approve the claim, and you must state upfront how much compensation you are requesting.
In terms of litigation, this is uncharted territory. In all possibilities, the process of these claims will change as the staggering amount of administrative claims are filed. There is little doubt that an experienced toxic contamination personal injury attorney will be a claimant’s lifeline through this controversial legal battle.
Here is what a Camp Lejeune toxic water claimant should look for and expect from their attorney:
- Skills and Experience. These are bound to be complicated cases. A successful outcome may be directly proportional to the attorney’s organizational, analytical, and research skills. Written and verbal communications and critical thinking will be the cornerstones of a multiple myeloma claim.
- Attention to detail. The amount of settlement requested in a toxic contamination claim should be proportional to:
- the extent of the exposure,
- the physical challenges of the acquired disease,
- the types of treatments the applicant had to endure,
- the length of time the applicant was (or is expected to be) in treatment,
- the costs incurred for treatment,
- the scope of physical and emotional pain the applicant endured,
- the financial losses from lost wages,
- any other losses experienced due to the illness
- Personal attention. Receiving a financial settlement due to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune is expected to be a lengthy process. Applicants and their families need to have a legal support system that can devote the time to guide them through each step of the claim process and keep them updated on the progress of their claims.
- Knowledge is power. Applicants should seek a lawyer who is well versed in the entire Camp Lejeune contamination issue and can keep abreast with any changes to policies and procedures.
- Resources. Locating, securing, verifying, and reviewing military service records, housing verification documents, wage and income summaries, and medical records require a law firm that is well staffed and able to handle the scope and volume of work for each case.
- A complete legal support system. Expert witnesses may be required to substantiate claims. The law firm an applicant selects to represent their interests must have a working relationship with a network of investigators and medical and scientific experts to advocate on their client’s behalf.
- Tenacity. Applicants in a Camp Lejeune toxic water claim have already lost so much. Now that the time is right to seek compensation and closure, these families need a law firm willing and able to stay the course until they recover the necessary compensation.
Camp Lejeune Multiple Myeloma Claimants Can Seek Damages Related To:
- Past and future medical treatment costs
- Lost wages and reduced income capacity
- Permanent disability and disability benefits
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Miscellaneous compensatory damages
To Sum It All Up
- Toxic substances were found in the water supply serving residents of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
- Verifiable research proved these chemicals caused certain health-related conditions.
- Documentation showed the government knew about the dangers of the contaminated water supply.
- It took years before the federal government admitted fault.
- Due to certain restrictions, not every injured person initially became eligible to seek financial compensation.
- As of August 10, 2022, All qualified applicants can request compensation for illness or wrongful death due to toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune.
For many years, courts denied claims because of the statute of repose, which states that claimants have ten years to file a claim after the harmful action took place. In this case, the harmful action was exposure to contaminated water. Unfortunately, most potential claimants weren’t aware of their harm until well beyond the ten-year statutory period had passed.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act opened the door for potentially hundreds of thousands of veterans and civilians to file a claim for the illnesses they suffered from exposure to toxic water. Those stationed at or who lived on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, between 1953 and 1982 for at least 30 cumulative days and developed multiple myeloma, or any qualifying health conditions, may be eligible to receive financial compensation.
Winning a Camp Lejeune Contaminated water claim will not change the past. It will not bring back a loved one who died from multiple myeloma, and a financial settlement will not erase the pain of those who continue to suffer the physical and emotional consequences of the government’s actions.
Filing a claim against the federal government will hopefully bring a sense of closure —seeking long overdue justice. The time for taking action is limited, don’t give up the legal right to seek financial compensation for all that has been, and may continue to be, lost.
Those still seeking reparations should look for a legal team who knows how to construct a compelling toxic exposure claim that will capture the full extent of the pain and suffering endured by each claimant. Contact an experienced attorney for a no-cost consultation and learn how they can stand up to the federal government and ensure you receive the fair treatment you deserve.