The Justice Department and the Navy are warning those filing claims under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act to be aware of scammers seeking to obtain personal information or money from them.
In a fraud alert issued Monday, federal officials said claimants and attorneys who represent those affected by the decades-long contamination of drinking water at the North Carolina Marine Corps base should be cautious of phone calls or emails requesting personal information or money.
According to the alert, reports have been on the rise of "unscrupulous people and companies ... seeking ... to obtain personal information from Camp Lejeune Justice Act claimants or otherwise defraud them."
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"Claimants who receive calls or emails from individuals attempting to collect money or personal information in connection with their CLJA claim should contact their attorneys to report this activity," the warning added.
Individuals not represented by an attorney should report any activity to the Navy's Camp Lejeune Claims Unit at CLClaims@us.navy.mil, according to the announcement.
More than 1 million troops or their family members were exposed to water contamination at the installation from the early 1950s through the late 1980s.
The pollution, which stemmed from numerous sources, included chemicals such as tetrachloroethylene, solvents, benzene and vinyl chloride that have been linked to cancers, birth defects and other chronic illnesses.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act, part of the landmark PACT Act, allowed those who lived or worked at the installation for at least 30 days between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987, and were sickened as a result to sue for damages.
As of January, more than 150,000 administrative claims have been filed with the Navy over Camp Lejeune and roughly 1,500 federal lawsuits are pending, according to court documents.
By law, if an administrative claim is not resolved by the Navy within six months, veterans or their family members can file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Eastern North Carolina. Those affected have until Aug. 10, 2024, to file a claim.
Law firms have aggressively advertised their services to affected individuals, even though veterans or family members can file the claims paperwork themselves. In response to concerns about counsel charging large fees to represent claimants, the Justice Department in October confirmed that the Federal Tort Claims Act caps fees at 20% for administrative work and 25% for litigation for Camp Lejeune claims.
According to the Camp Lejeune Claims Unit, or CLCU, claimants should be aware that:
- The Justice Department and the Navy will never request money or payment.
- All inquiries should be forwarded to an attorney if one has been obtained.
- Authorized emails from the Navy will be sent from CLClaims@us.navy.mil, and claimants may forward any email messages they receive to the address to verify authenticity.
- If a claimant receives a phone call from someone saying they are from the CLCU or offering claims assistance, the receiver should ask for the person's name and position and call the CLCU at (757) 241-6020 to verify.
"The Justice Department and Navy are committed to reviewing every claim submitted and resolving every claim as fairly and efficiently as possible," officials said in the alert.