Are Veterans Benefits Affected By Claims Made Under The Camp LeJeune Justice Act?
Although the Camp Lejeune Act is not limited to just servicemembers—anybody who worked at or was stationed at the camp from 1953 to 1987, for 30 days or more can sue for damages for water contamination at Camp LeJeune—servicemembers do make up a large number of the people who sue for damages under the Act.
Many of those servicemembers may also be receiving some form of benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA). And many may be concerned that if they sue or file a claim for injuries or illnesses suffered while they were at Camp LeJeune under the new law, that any recovery could limit, threaten or jeopardize their disability benefits.
The good news for veterans is no—whatever you recover under the Act for illnesses caused by exposure to contaminated water, will not lower or risk your benefits; the VA cannot legally setoff any benefits or limit any of your benefits, just because you recovered compensation under the new law.
Setoffs of Compensation Under the Act
The opposite could potentially happen—any recovery under the law from any lawsuit seeking compensation or damages for exposure to contaminants in Camp LeJeune’s water, could be reduced by any veteran’s benefits you may have received.
But even that is an open question, because even though its legally possible to have your recovery set off by the amount of your VA benefits, it is expected that as part of any settlements with the government, that the setoffs will be waived; that is, that as part of and a condition of any settlement, victims will require that the VA not lower their award under the act for any setoff.
The Same Injury or Illnesses?
But even that setoff is in doubt, because the setoff is only to avoid a veteran getting money twice, for the same illness or condition.
So, for example, imagine that a veteran is betting a VA benefit for a knee injury suffered while stationed at Camp Lejeune. That same veteran then sues under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, because the veteran had a child with a birth defect, and the defect was caused by contaminated water.
In that case, the government may not have any right to any setoff at all, as the veteran’s benefits were paying for a wholly different accident, illness, or disease, than the award compensated the veteran for. The government would have the burden to show that the VA benefits you received were in fact related to contaminated water, or to the same injury or disease that you recovered compensation for under the Camp LeJeune Justice Act.
In fact, it may get so complex to analyze the purpose of VA benefits, what caused injuries and illnesses, and calculation of setoffs, that the government may not even bother with setoffs at all, or at least, that the government may be willing to accept very favorable settlement offers to avoid major setoffs to damages that service members get under the new law.
Call the Tennessee Camp Lejeune Justice Act injury lawyers at Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, PLLC, today for help with your amusement park injury and accident case.