My followers know that eventually I will be compensated for the wrongful death of my mother and my own infant brain injury by the U.S. Marine Corps. That justice became real in the Camp LeJeune Justice Act of 2022 (S. 3373) passing the Senate on August 2, 2022. President Biden signed the Camp LeJeune Justice Act of 2022, Public Law 117-168, Sec. 804, into law on August 10, 2022, after it was passed 342-88 in the U.S. House and 86-11 in the U.S. Senate.
It seems very strange that it would take until 2022 to obtain such relief for poisoning that happened from 1953 to 1987, 35-69 years ago. The reason a new law had to be passed is that federal judges have decided that the children of veterans are excluded from compensation for their injuries aboard a base so toxic that it received an EPA Superfund Site status.
The court doctrine is called Feres doctrine and it prevents veterans from suing the government they once served. Veterans have VA benefits. However, their children and spouses often are left with injuries or death and no VA benefit at all.
The family of veterans on all military bases have under Feres been treated as so much “acceptable” collateral damage as the veterans train for war. It is NOT acceptable to me. The D.C. Circuit decided in a 1982 panel divided 2-1 that the families of veterans are excluded from justice by applying Feres to them, just like the veterans are denied under that same doctrine. Lombard v. United States, 690 F.2d 215, 218 (D.C. Cir. 1982). The lone dissenter was Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ironically, Judge Bork was also on the panel. Hon. Ginsburg was raised to the U.S. Supreme Court while Hon. Bork was rejected by the U.S. Senate. However, Ginsburg never had an opportunity to overturn Bork’s anti-veterans’ family Lombard decision before her death.
CLJA actually overturns Lombard, but only for one base. CLJA also provides a jury trial right that does not exist under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). CLJA also is a strict liability law because no negligence needs to be proven. Exposure to the toxic base for over 30 days plus an injury or death that can be attributed to the toxins are the requirements. Thus, exposure and injury, just like many strict liability product liability cases. There is also no cap on the amount of compensatory damages.
I opposed the Lombard decision in my own case for poisoning by Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in California, since my father was stationed there in 1967-1968 and that base was an EPA Superfund site too.
Notice how many of the same contaminants were present on both bases, and I dare say that most bases have some of not all of these toxins and they let the family members come onto those bases, amazingly and recklessly. I asked for Lombard to be overturned by the D.C. Circuit en banc, but that court would not do it. Straw v. United States, 22-5106 (D.C. Cir. 2022) (Dkt. 1957529). No reason was given for maintaining that unfair and unjust 2-1 split decision, just that no judge wanted to review it. It takes the Court acting as a whole to overturn a panel precedent, so acting en banc was the only way to reverse Lombard.
Thus, every judge on the D.C. Circuit is saying today in 2022 that the children and spouses of veterans injured or killed by base toxins where they were allowed to visit must receive no justice under the FTCA because Feres is going to continue excluding them.
I think this is scandalous. I think Congress should consider disbanding the D.C. Circuit and forcing those judges into a paid retirement based on the lack of any jurisdiction over any case. No judge on the Circuit has earned the right to stay there or continue making errors of this magnitude.
CLJA is not fair to all those children and spouses of veterans poisoned on the other bases that were also EPA Superfund sites.
The split decision in Lombard remains for every other base. Only Camp LeJeune now has an exception to Lombard.
This exception needs to grow. Either Congress must get with the program and provide all children and spouses of veterans with VA benefits or a new Act needs to be provided to expand Camp LeJeune Justice Act to all bases and all those exposed to military toxins, whether veterans or their family members. Nobody ever agreed to being poisoned, injured, or killed just because the military poisons people and seems not to care very much. Toxic cannon fodder, that’s what we the families have become.
Every child and spouse or former spouse of any veteran should have health coverage and it should apply no matter where they live, even overseas. The same disability benefits that veterans can obtain should also be available to their children and spouses or ex-spouses. Anyone exposed to the bases where veterans served.
A child of a veteran should also be given the status of a veteran. This includes in employment or benefits or anywhere else. When a form asks if a person is a veteran, the child or spouse of a veteran should not have to say no. In fact, the whole family serves and it is wrong to exclude any part of the nuclear family of a veteran from veteran benefits. If Feres is used to deny justice, there need to be VA benefits just like veterans have, at a minimum.
Camp LeJeune Justice Act is just grazing the surface of great tragedies in veterans’ families from all bases. More needs to be done.
I am also pursuing law reforms and court reform in federal and state courts this year and my readers can see how that’s going here: http://2022.andrewstraw.com