Campaign for Justice: Veterans’ Toxic Water Claims Surge as Compensation Deadline Approaches

Elizabethtown, North Carolina – For nearly four decades, Jerry Ensminger has returned to Onslow Beach, a stretch of shoreline in North Carolina where his young daughter, Janey, once played in the sand. They would often visit the beach together, searching for shells and shark teeth as they navigated the challenges of her leukemia diagnosis. Now, as Ensminger approaches the end of his journey for justice, more than 129,000 veterans, workers, and their relatives have submitted claims for compensation due to exposure to toxic water at Camp Lejeune. The upcoming deadline in August is expected to bring thousands more claims.

Ensminger, a former Marine drill instructor, has been a relentless advocate for those affected by the contamination. Since Janey’s death in 1985, he has testified nine times on Capitol Hill, met with former presidents, and pursued legislation to provide assistance to Camp Lejeune victims. The long-awaited acknowledgement by Congress and the government has opened the floodgates for claims seeking redress for cancer, Parkinson’s, and other diseases caused by the toxic water.

The scale of the Camp Lejeune case is unprecedented, with the potential to become one of the largest mass torts in history. Unlike previous cases involving multinational corporations, this battle is against the government itself. Congressional analysts projected that the U.S. would pay out as much as $21 billion to compensate those affected. However, the actual cost may be even higher, as the Justice Department recently revealed that the claims filed so far could exceed $3 trillion.

While progress has been made, significant hurdles remain. One unresolved issue is whether veterans whose compensation claims are rejected can request jury trials. Additionally, there is ongoing debate about limiting fees charged by plaintiffs’ lawyers. To complicate matters further, there have been instances of fraudulent claims infiltrating the system.

The Navy, responsible for overseeing the Marine Corps, has also faced criticism for its slow response to veterans’ needs. Promised initiatives, such as an online claims portal, have yet to materialize, leaving many frustrated and disillusioned. Ensminger, who turned 71 on July 4, has watched fellow veterans succumb to their illnesses while waiting for action in court.

Ensminger’s passion and determination have resonated with other veterans affected by the Camp Lejeune water contamination. Mike Partain, another survivor, joined forces with Ensminger after seeing him speak on CNN. The two have become a powerful duo, tirelessly advocating for their fellow veterans and educating attorneys about the history of contamination at Camp Lejeune. Their work has been instrumental in drawing attention to the issue and pushing for legislative reforms.

As the veterans fight for their rights, Jacksonville, the city where Camp Lejeune is located, stands as a microcosm of the military community. With over 100,000 active and retired Marines residing there, conversations about the toxic water are never far away. Families have been devastated by a range of health problems, including advanced kidney failure and multiple miscarriages.

The road to justice for Camp Lejeune victims is a long and arduous one, but Ensminger and Partain refuse to back down. Their commitment to seeking accountability and compensation for those affected by the toxic water remains steadfast. As Ensminger walks along the beach, his thoughts turn to Janey and the countless others who have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of the contamination.