The “Elective Option” promises quick Camp Lejeune claim settlements, but can severely limit claim value. This blog shows you how to get the most out of your Camp Lejeune settlement.

Camp Lejeune Elective Option contaminated water

On September 6, 2023, the government introduced the “Elective Option” (EO) to Camp Lejeune claimants. Through a statement titled Public Guidance on the Elective Option for Camp Lejeune, the government describes an alternative to traditional settlements or bench trials; the Elective Option is a means to expedite claims for those who previously received benefits or healthcare from the VA related to Camp Lejeune toxic water and who qualifies for Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) settlements.

How does the Elective Option work? Each individual who previously received benefits or healthcare through the VA and have filed a Camp Lejeune Claim with the Department of Navy will have their claim evaluated from a schedule of exposure lengths and qualifying injuries based upon supporting medical records and housing records the individual must provide. “Qualifying injuries” include kidney cancer, liver cancer, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, Parkinson’s Disease, kidney disease / end-stage renal disease, and systemic sclerosis / systemic scleroderma. Both Tier 1 and Tier 2 injuries are then set to another grid that determines a settlement amount based on exposure to contaminated water. 

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What is the Camp Lejeune Elective Option? 

The “Elective Option” refers to the government’s offer to process voluntary Camp Lejeune settlements through a simplified rubric. For VA beneficiaries, this may seem preferable to hiring an attorney and waiting for a custom settlement or bench trial. While “Elective Option” has no actual definition and is not an official legal term, it has come to mean an expedited alternative to the traditional legal framework that is designed to ensure a full, fair settlement to Camp Lejeune victims. 

What Injuries Qualify Under the Camp Lejeune Elective Option? 

The “Elective Option” has a published schedule of injuries and their settlement value. Instead of hearing each claimant’s case, including how long they have suffered and how their injuries have affected their lives, the Elective Option simplifies settlement value by shunting claims under one of two tiers of “qualifying injuries”: 

Are All Claims Eligible for the ‘Elective Option’ Settlement Offer?

In short: no. The Elective Option only applies to certain claims, and your injuries cannot be compounded; this means that if you have two or more conditions resulting from water contamination, you will only be compensated for the most severe injury that qualifies under the government’s schedule. Previously filed claims are not eligible, and recent diagnoses (after August 10, 2022) will not qualify under the elective option. 

Do I Qualify for the Elective Option for a Camp Lejeune Settlement? 

You may qualify for an Elective Option settlement if you meet certain criteria. If you have already filed your claim and previously received healthcare or benefits through the VA, the U.S. Department of the Navy will notify you through your attorney about your eligibility. Your attorney will be able to answer questions about the pros and cons of accepting the Elective Option, and how your personal circumstances may affect your claim value using this approach.

Legal Concerns With the Camp Lejeune “Elective Option” Settlement Offer

For many legal experts, the government’s Elective Option caused immediate concern. The government— in this case, the defendant—had not consulted with any of the Plaintiff’s counsel before releasing this information. Most concerningly, they did not consult with the Plaintiffs’ Leadership Committee, the board appointed by the Federal Court in the Eastern District of North Carolina to oversee the plaintiffs’ interests in this case.

Put simply: in many cases, the guidelines for the Elective Option will severely undervalue claim value. This has the potential to leave vulnerable, underrepresented plaintiffs with much less settlement money than they are actually owed. Below, Poole Law Group Camp Lejeune attorneys have answered some frequently asked questions about the Elective Option and how it may affect your Camp Lejeune settlement.

If you were injured by the water at Camp Lejeune, and you qualify for Camp Lejeune Justice Act claims, you may be tempted to take the Elective Option to resolve your case. Before choosing to take the Elective Option, it is important to understand what this means for your claim and your potential settlements.

There are several reasons to be hesitant to file a claim under the government’s Elective Option:

  • Combined damages are not permitted. The Elective Option does not allow you to recover compensation for more than one type of injury. For example, if you suffer from infertility and also received a cancer diagnosis, you will only be able to recover damages for one of these conditions. This has the potential to reduce your claim by millions of dollars. 
  • Recent diagnoses do not qualify for compensation. Anyone with recently discovered conditions that stem from Camp Lejeune’s toxic water contamination will not be able to receive an offer under the government’s Elective Option. 
  • There is no methodology to explain how the government determined the monetary values listed on the Elective Option schedule. This is concerning, as the figures appear to greatly underestimate the cost of living with the most severe conditions resulting from toxic water contamination. This could mean that the most vulnerable Camp Lejeune claimants could be leaving hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on the table. 
  • The settlement value is based on the length of exposure. While this may seem fair, it does not take into account cases where military service members are stationed at Camp Lejeune but deployed elsewhere for long periods of time. 
  • To accept an Elective Option settlement, you forfeit your right to sue the government for any future Camp Lejeune lawsuit. This could prevent claimants from receiving full, fair compensation for their injuries—particularly those presenting later. 
  • There is no timeline for when an Elective Option settlement will be offered. Even though there are currently more than 93,000 claims filed, it may take years to finally see a settlement.

Before accepting any Elective Option for Camp Lejeune Justice Act claims, it is critical to speak to an experienced VA disability lawyer. The Poole Law Group specializes in Camp Lejeune claims, and can help you make an informed decision. Call us at 301-790-3600 to discuss your options.

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