"Elective Option" Gives Camp Lejeune Claimants Additional Avenue for Settlement Up to $550,000
On September 6, 2023, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Navy (DON) announced the finalization of a voluntary process called the “Elective Option,” which will provide claimants an avenue to more quickly resolve qualifying claims under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 (CLJA). To be clear, all other options remain in place; the Elective Option is a supplement.
What is the Elective Option?
The Elective Option provides a framework for the Dept. of Navy to resolve CLJA claims for people exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune with certain illnesses more quickly and transparently. In order to be eligible to participate in the Elective Option, a claimant still has to submit an administrative claim to the Dept. of Navy.
The Elective Option allows the Dept. of Navy to make settlement offers to claimants with diseases that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) previously determined are linked to the chemicals found in the water at Camp Lejeune.
What injuries are eligible for the Elective Option?
Based on an existing report by the ATSDR, the following medical conditions may be eligible for an expedited resolution:
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Kidney disease
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Systemic sclerosis/scleroderma
What are the dollar values available under the Elective Option?
The Dept. of Justice has authorized the Dept. of Navy to pay no more than $550,000 to resolve an administrative claim. Some claimants will receive less, and not all claimants will qualify for resolution under the Elective Option. Payments under the Elective Option will be based on both the claimant’s diagnosed medical condition and their length of exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune. Claims involving death would receive an additional $100,000.
Tier 1 Diagnoses
Tier 1 includes medical conditions for which the ATSDR has substantiated evidence of causation. These include bladder cancer, kidney cancer, leukemia, liver cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. These medical conditions would receive settlement offers of $450,000 for exposure of more than 5 years; $300,000 for exposure between 1 and 5 years; or $150,000 for exposure between 30-364 days.
Tier 2 Diagnoses
Tier 2 includes medical conditions for which the ATSDR has found possible evidence of causation. These include kidney disease (end-stage renal disease), multiple myeloma, Parkinson’s disease, and systemic sclerosis/systemic scleroderma. These medical conditions would receive settlement offers of $400,000 for exposure of more than 5 years; $250,000 for exposure between 1 and 5 years; or $100,000 for exposure between 30-364 days.
What are the benefits and trade-offs for participating in the Elective Option?
The biggest benefit of participating in the Elective Option is that the DOJ and DON have determined that payments made under the Elective Option will not be offset by past VA disability benefits or medical care. In addition, receipt of a settlement payment under the Elective Option will not reduce ongoing VA disability benefits or eligibility for medical care.
On the other hand, the agreed-upon amount being offered through the Elective Option may be less than what could be obtained through litigation. However, any potential future settlement plans brought about via litigation could take several years to be established, and there is no guarantee that litigation will bring about higher settlement payments. If the litigation results in less favorable results for claimants, the government could offer smaller settlement sums in the future.
What is the expected timeline for receiving a payment from the Elective Option?
Although no specific timeline has been published by the DOJ or DON for effectuating the Elective Option, we believe payments will begin sometime in 2024. Claims that are not eligible to participate in the Elective Option will continue to proceed through the normal administrative claims process.