Mar. 6—As stated many times before, veterans are special men and women who deserve our respect, admiration and thanks for their service to our country.
Veterans have earned that respect. Many have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. Life as we know it is thanks in very large part to our veterans.
So it was good to see the announcement this week from the office of U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, of the the U.S. House of Representatives' passage of legislation to ensure service-members and their families can receive justice for their exposure to toxic chemicals in drinking water at Camp Lejeune.
According to information provided by Cartwright's office, over a 30-year period spanning the 1950s through the 1980s, thousands of Marines, their families, civilian workers and personnel used government provided tap water that was contaminated with harmful chemicals, found at levels ranging from 240 to 3,400 times the levels permitted by safety standards.
These exposures likely increased the risk of cancers, such as renal cancer, multiple myeloma, leukemia and more. It also likely raised their risk of adverse birth outcomes, along with other negative health effects.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act provisions included in the Honoring Our PACT Act allow a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, and/or their family members, that were injured or died as a result of the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune to file under the Federal Tort Claims Act for fair compensation.
Cartwright said this type of claim would already be permitted anywhere else in the United States, but because of a unique provision in North Carolina law, this legislation is necessary for those harmed at Camp Lejeune finally to seek justice.
"The service-members who signed up to defend their country and the people who supported them at Camp Lejeune were let down in a big way by their government," Cartwright said in a news release. "This tragedy was a major failure on the part of the Department of Defense, and all those who suffered for it deserve justice. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act, included in the Honoring Our PACT Act, is an important step forward in achieving that goal."
H.R. 3967, The Honoring Our PACT Act, passed the House by a vote of 256-174 on Thursday, March 3, 2022.
Cartwright spoke of Gerard McNamara, a current Northeastern Pennsylvania resident and a Vietnam veteran, who was stationed at Camp Lejeune for just three months in 1967. He was later diagnosed with multiple ailments and cancers from the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, Cartwright said.
Cartwright said McNamara has expressed obvious disappointment that Camp Lejeune did not notify him nor other service members about the contaminated water and the exposure risks from drinking it, and he has applauded Cartwright's efforts to help veterans and their families' who were affected by the contaminated water.
Cartwright said McNamara hopes that the Camp Lejeune Justice Act will bring awareness of the possibility of assistance to other fellow Camp Lejeune service members affected by water contamination and open a door for them to receive justice.
Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021
—The bill allows certain individuals to sue and recover damages for harm from exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987.
—This action is available only to individuals who were exposed to contaminated water for at least 30 days.
—The bill prohibits the U.S. government from asserting specified immunity from litigation in response to such a lawsuit.
—The bill also prohibits an individual who brings such an action from bringing a separate tort action against the United States based on the same harm.
Reach Bill O'Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.