Some health conditions can take many years to develop, and members of the military who served at Camp Lejeune many decades ago and their families are presently experiencing issues. When a veteran suffers from an injury or illness during qualifying active service and develops a disability or other condition, a condition that a medical opinion believes is linked to the injury or illness during service, then they qualify for VA disability benefits.
Basic Eligibility Requirements for Camp Lejeune-Related Benefits
If you served in the U.S. Military between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, at either of these two locations, you may be eligible for disability and healthcare benefits from the VA:
- Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, or
- Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River, North Carolina
When these basic conditions are met, in addition to having served at least 30 days total during this time period, and you did not receive a dishonorable discharge, then you and your family may be eligible for VA benefits. It is necessary to demonstrate that you have a current diagnosis of a condition that has been found to be related to the exposure that veterans and their families experienced when present at or within a certain area around Camp Lejeune.
Camp Lejeune Has “Presumptive Conditions” Associated With It
Generally, you need a nexus between your active service and your current condition to collect VA disability benefits. This nexus is usually the opinion of a medical expert who has reviewed your current condition and military record and finds a more likely than not link between your qualifying active service and your current condition. With presumptive conditions, all that a veteran needs to prove is that they meet the basic requirements to qualify, and a nexus letter is not essential.
In addition to having served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River, North Carolina during the time period specified above, you must also have a diagnosis of 1 or more of the following presumptive conditions:
- Liver cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
The VA notes that evidence indicates a link between the conditions listed above and exposure to chemicals that were found in the drinking water at MCAS New River and Camp Lejeune during the specified time period.
How to File an Initial Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River Claim
You are able to file an initial VA application through VA Form 21-526EZ, which can be completed online here. With your claim, the VA advises that you make sure to state that you’re applying for 1 or more presumptive conditions for Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River.
You’ll need to provide the following evidence alongside your claim:
- Your military records, demonstrating that you served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for a minimum of 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, and
- Medical recording demonstrating that you have 1 or more of the 8 Camp Lejeune presumptive conditions listed above
When you meet the requirements for Camp Lejeune coverage from the VA, you may also be eligible to enroll in VA healthcare. Should you have any of the following 15 conditions linked to Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River, you don’t have to pay a copay for care related to the condition:
- Esophageal cancer
- Breast cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Hepatitis steatosis
- Female infertility
- Renal toxicity
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
While you may receive VA healthcare for other conditions listed, you may be required to pay benefits for that coverage.
Families Who Lived at Camp Lejeune May Also Be Eligible
Given that many of the health issues linked to MCAS New River and Camp Lejeune involved drinking water contamination, it was not only active-duty military members who were impacted.
The VA may pay or reimburse health care costs linked to certain conditions if the following are true:
- You must be or have been a member of the family of a veteran who served at Camp Lejeune or MSAS, and
- You must have lived, or been in utero while your mother lived, at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River, for a minimum of 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, and
- You have to apply and be approved for benefits under current law
When these parameters are met, coverage for related health care may be provided through the VA. Understanding what your rights are can be confusing, particularly when you are experiencing a serious health problem. Connecting with a trained professional from the VA for an initial application can provide you with essential information to support you in aligning benefits.
Watch Out for Scams Targeting Veterans and Military Spouses
You may have noticed an increasing number of television commercials lately concerning Camp Lejeune and the development of various illnesses amongst veterans and their families who served there. As these conditions have emerged and legitimately injured veterans have begun to file claims, scammers have also begun to target veterans in a variety of ways, seeking to steal personal information and money.
VA Disability Information is Free, So Watch Out for Costly “Coaching” and “Education”
Some of the scams invite you to call in and learn how they can help, offering veterans such products as “coaching” or “education” for a fee. This information can generally be downloaded for free on the internet or available at a local law library, and is also provided to you free of charge by the VA on your initial disability application. Before calling into a random commercial off television for information about Camp Lejeune, visit the VA’s website. There you can find a list of VA-accredited attorneys and representatives who can help you.
There are No Filing Fees for a VA Disability Claim
Another common element of scams targeting veterans affected by toxins at Camp Lejeune is the charging of filing fees. You may be told that you qualify for significant benefits, but before you can apply to begin to access them, you must pay “filing fees”. With these types of scams, the filing fees often recur, and ultimately the veteran pays filing fees but never receives anything, not even a filed application.
To avoid Camp Lejeune scams, it is helpful to consider the following precautions:
- Do not click on links in suspicious emails, especially if they arrive randomly
- Apply for your VA disability benefits through official methods, like with the VA
- Keep alert to the many varieties of this scam, whether through text messages, phone, mail, or email
- Make sure to only work with reputable attorneys who are VA-accredited and verified
Taking these steps will help to insulate you from Camp Lejeune scams. If you have not filed a VA disability application for any condition yet, the VA will help you through the process. While our experienced VA appeal attorney team cannot help with your initial claims, if it has been denied we can take over the appeal and cover it from start to finish on your behalf. Should you already have a VA-rated disability and believe that you may have conditions due to Camp Lejeune, you can file a new claim.
A VA Appeal Lawyer Help with Appeals and Supplemental Claims
While you may file your initial VA disability application free through the VA’s online portal, in person at a VA center, or through the mail, or with a veterans service organization, and receive free assistance to do so, appeals and supplemental claims are different. When your initial claim is denied, it may be many months or even years before your appeal is reviewed, and there are different pathways to appeal. It is essential that your appeal include the necessary information for your denial to be overturned so that you can receive the benefits you deserve. If your appeal is overturned, you receive benefits retroactive to the date that you initially applied, which can result in substantial sums. That is why it is a mistake to simply refile new claims as opposed to appealing. Be skeptical of anyone who tells you not to appeal a denial.
If you have already had a VA disability claim approved and have a VA disability rating, and believe that you may have developed an additional condition like one due to toxin exposure at Camp Lejeune, you can file a new claim. This can increase your overall VA disability rating and the amount of compensation that you are entitled to.
Discuss Your Appeal or Supplemental Claim with an Experienced VA Appeal Lawyer
Our law firm focuses exclusively on representing the best interests of veterans. We are VA-accredited, and our experienced VA appeal attorney team is available to assist you with appeals or supplemental claims. Your initial case review is cost-free, and if we take your case we only get paid if we win. Reaching out is risk-free, so we look forward to hearing about your situation to determine if and how we can help. Call us at 1-888-878-9350 today.