On Wednesday, September 6, the United States Navy and the Department of Justice (DOJ) abruptly released an 11-page document outlining a so-called “elective option” for qualifying Camp Lejeune Justice Act claims.
This document and the guidelines it outlines were created and released without informing or gathering input from any of the plaintiffs’ counsel or the Plaintiffs’ Leadership Committee, which was appointed in July by the Federal Court in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Read on to explore the complexities surrounding the “Elective Option” for Camp Lejeune Justice Act claims, including what injuries qualify for settlement offers, the questions raised by the guidelines’ release, and how Keches Law is committed to guiding clients through this intricate process.
What Does ‘Elective Option’ Mean?
“Elective Option” is not a legal term and has no actual definition. It’s the name the U.S. government has given to a process in which they’re offering voluntary settlements to former Marines, sailors and families who were injured by contaminated drinking water at the military base.
Why Was the Camp Lejeune ‘Elective Option’ Released?
While there’s still a lot to unpack, the circumstances and timing of the release of this document certainly raises some questions.
“The court with jurisdiction over these claims has not been pleased that the government had not not made a single settlement offer up to this point,” said Senior Attorney Tim Nolte. “Many believe that releasing this ‘Elective Option,’ when and how they did, was an attempt by the government to be able to say they have made an effort to make settlement offers on these claims. While it is a start, they are severely undervaluing the strongest science backed claims.”
What Injuries Qualify for the Camp Lejeune Settlement Offer?
Below is a breakdown of what injuries qualify for the so-called “Elective Option,” how the government values these injuries monetarily, and what additional requirements the government has set forth in order to qualify for an offer under the guidelines.
It’s important to note that the guidelines only account for what the government has designated as Tier 1 and Tier 2 “qualifying injuries.”
|Kidney Cancer||Tier 1|
|Liver Cancer||Tier 1|
|Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma||Tier 1|
|Bladder Cancer||Tier 1|
|Multiple Myeloma||Tier 2|
|Parkinson’s Disease||Tier 2|
|Kidney Disease/End Stage Renal Disease||Tier 2|
|Systemic Sclerosis/Systemic Scleroderma||Tier 2|
For those qualifying injuries, the government basis their offer off of the length of exposure.
|Tier 1||Tier 2|
|30 to 364 Days||$150,000||$100.000|
|1 Year to 5 Years||$300,000||$250,000|
|More Than 5 Years||$450,000||$400,000|
For claims resulting in death, the government will offer an additional $100,000. The maximum offer will not exceed $550,000.
Are All Camp Lejeune Claims Eligible for the ‘Elective Option’ Settlement Offer?
Public Guidance on Elective Option for Camp Lejeune Justice Act Claims outlines multiple exceptions regarding eligibility for the Camp Lejeune “Elective Option” settlement offer.
- The claims cannot be compounded. This means that individuals with multiple qualifying injuries would only be eligible to be compensated for the most severe qualifying injury.
- Only certain claims are being considered. The guidelines state that the administrative complaint must be filed with the U.S. Department of the Navy. Additionally, claims that are already in suit and being litigated in the Eastern District of North Carolina would not qualify.
- Recent diagnoses may not be eligible. The injury has to have been diagnosed or treated prior to August 10, 2022.
- There is a latency requirement. The date of diagnosis or treatment must be after 2 years, but no greater than 35 years after the claimant’s first exposure.
How Do I Know If I Qualify for the ‘Elective Option?’
The U.S. Department of the Navy will contact the attorney of record or representative regarding any claims they deem meet the requirements for an offer under their guidelines they set and are outlined above. There are currently more than 93,000 claims filed, and the guidelines do not provide a timeline on when the offers will be made.
Are There Legal Concerns or Potential Issues with the Camp Lejeune Settlement Offer?
Since these guidelines were released by the government without any input from the Plaintiffs’ Leadership Counsel, there are many unanswered questions about the Camp Lejeune “Elective Option.”
Does the “Elective Option” waiver extend to liens from other healthcare providers like Medicare or private insurers?
The guidelines specify waiving subrogation rights for VA disability claims but make no mention of other potential liens from Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, or private health insurers. This omission could result in claimants losing their entire settlement to healthcare liens.
Is there transparency in how the government arrived at the monetary values for qualifying injuries?
No, questions have been raised about the grid the government uses to determine the monetary value of claims. The guidelines appear to undervalue some of the strongest science-backed claims against the government, potentially exploiting vulnerable and unrepresented plaintiffs.
Are the guidelines on length of exposure to contaminants at Camp Lejeune accurate and fair?
The guidelines base settlement offers on the length of exposure, but this measurement appears to be inconsistent and potentially unfair. For example, a Marine might be stationed at Camp Lejeune but deployed elsewhere for extended periods.
Do the guidelines accommodate for multiple qualifying injuries for one individual?
No, the guidelines explicitly state that claims cannot be compounded. This means that individuals with multiple qualifying injuries can only be compensated for the most severe among them.
What are the eligibility criteria for claims to be considered under the “Elective Option”?
The administrative complaint must be filed with the U.S. Department of the Navy. Claims already in suit and being litigated in the Eastern District of North Carolina do not qualify. Additionally, recent diagnoses may not be eligible, and there is a specific latency requirement.
How does one find out if they qualify for an “Elective Option” settlement?
The U.S. Department of the Navy will contact the attorney of record or representative regarding any claims that meet their guidelines. There is currently no timeline provided on when these offers will be made, despite more than 93,000 claims being filed.
Were plaintiff parties consulted in the creation of the “Elective Option” guidelines?
No, the guidelines were created and released without informing or gathering input from any of the plaintiffs’ counsel or the Plaintiffs’ Leadership Committee, raising questions about their fairness and completeness.
Key Takeaways from the ‘Elective Option’ for Camp Lejeune Claims
In conclusion, the release of the “Elective Option” guidelines for Camp Lejeune Justice Act Claims by the U.S. Navy and Department of Justice has raised many eyebrows, particularly because it was done without consulting plaintiffs’ counsel or the Plaintiffs’ Leadership Committee.
The option appears to offer a streamlined settlement process but comes with a host of questions about its fairness, transparency, and thoroughness.
“On a positive note, this is a first step,” said Nolte, who is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. “The government has finally done something substantial after more than a year of this bill being enacted and making zero offers. This is a starting point.”
That said, there are glaring omissions and quite a few potential pitfalls, including lack of clarity on healthcare liens, undervaluation of claims, and strict eligibility criteria.
With over 93,000 claims filed and no clear timeline for settlement offers, those affected by the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune find themselves navigating a complex and potentially unfair system.
Keches Law is Here to Serve Those Who Served Us
If you or a loved one were stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between 1953 and 1987 and developed a major illness, you may be eligible for compensation from the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. Learn more ou entre em contato conosco.