AKRON, Ohio (WJW) — Summit County officials are warning veterans of misinformation and scams relating to disability benefits for service at Camp Lejeune or New River Air Station.
Veterans and their families who were exposed to toxic water at either site are able to sue the federal government this year, following an act of Congress earlier this year. Veterans don’t need to retain an attorney to access the benefits, yet many veterans have been misled, according to a news release from Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro and county Veterans Service Commission Director Larry Moore.
“Bad actors and scammers are now using this information to take advantage of victims and target the military community at large with misleading commercials, ads, text messages and more,” reads the release. “Nationwide, veterans and their families have become targets of unscrupulous attorneys and other con artists looking to cash in.”
Attorneys who hear veterans’ claims for the benefits often require payment upfront, which they may then keep, “regardless of the claim’s validity,” according to the release.
“Retaining an attorney may also negatively affect a veteran in the long-term due to VA benefit offsets,” it reads.
Am I eligible?
To be eligible for disability benefits, veterans, reservists and guardsmen must have served at either Camp Lejeune or New River Air Station in Jacksonville, North Carolina, for at least 30 cumulative days between Aug. 1, 1953 and Dec. 31, 1987. They also must have a diagnosis of presumptive conditions including adult leukemia and Parkinson’s disease.
Those who were dishonorably discharged are not eligible.
Summit County veterans who think they may be eligible for benefits can call the Veterans Service Commission at 330-643-2830, or visit its office at 1060 E. Waterloo Road, Akron. Its walk-in hours are 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
For more details about accessing the disability benefits for Camp Lejeune and New River Air Station water contamination, or for a list of qualifying conditions, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.
Water distributed at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with volatile compounds, according to a news release from a personal injury law firm investigating the claims. It’s estimated more than 1 million people were exposed to the toxic chemicals, which are linked to various types of cancer, fertility problems and kidney disease, among other conditions.