As the Camp Lejeune case progresses, the focus shifts to the qualifying conditions for compensation, prompting questions about the criteria. While federal guidelines provide a list of presumptive conditions for compensation, there is a growing awareness that non-presumed conditions, already attributed by the VA to Camp Lejeune water exposure, might yield significant awards.
A pending report from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is anticipated to be released in the coming weeks, potentially broadening the spectrum of injuries linked to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
The Elective Option Debate
In recent months, an elective compensation option has been presented, sparking debate among plaintiff lawyers. Many have opted to dismiss this initial offer due to relatively low awards. Statistics reveal that out of sixteen offers, only four have been accepted, with a total payout of less than $1 million. This indicates a reluctance among claimants to opt for the elective route, attributing it to its limited compensation and advocating for patience in favor of individual settlement discussions or trial.
The elective option covers two tiers of conditions, including cancers and disorders, but the low acceptance rate suggests it may not be the best choice for a majority of claimants.
A Case in Point
Beasley Allen, a prominent firm, expressed that less than 2% of their clients both qualified and opted for the elective option. They emphasized that this option might only be suitable for individuals in dire financial straits, with a short life expectancy, or weak cases. Their assertion is that waiting may yield higher compensation for all claimants.
As of now, only three of their clients have been paid via the elective option, totaling $850,000.
The Slow Progress of the Elective Option
The elective option settlement process has been notably slow, with only sixteen cases accepted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as of November 27. Out of these, only four offers were accepted, two were rejected, six expired, and eight are still pending. This sluggish pace raises questions about the effectiveness of the entire program.
Beyond Tiers: Exploring Other Compensation Avenues
For individuals without conditions listed in the elective option tiers, hope is not lost. The ATSDR report, although yet to be released, suggests that additional diseases and conditions could be considered for compensation under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 and PACT.
While specific details are awaited, preliminary information hints at a broader list of cancers and disorders associated with Camp Lejeune water exposure. Male breast cancer, miscarriage, and female infertility are among the potential considerations. Interestingly, these conditions, while covered under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, are ineligible under the elective option.
The disparity between the elective option list and the VA’s coverage further complicates matters, leaving room for uncertainty. Plaintiff attorneys are grappling with this issue, emphasizing that the elective option should not be viewed as the standard for Camp Lejeune cases.
As we await more definitive news, it becomes clear that the elective option’s list of conditions is not exhaustive. Additional conditions may be added, and other compensation avenues, including litigation, remain viable. The advice to legal practitioners is clear – patience may lead to better outcomes for clients. Reconsideration of cases previously rejected due to certain conditions, such as breast or lung cancer, may be warranted, as these cases could hold value and potentially offer higher compensation than those covered by the elective option.