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Camp Lejeune informational video warns military members of potential scams

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PFC J.A. GARZA, USMC/Same As Above
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DIGITAL
A US Marine Corps (USMC) Color Guard from Marine Corps Base (MCB), Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, stands at parade rest during the Veteran's Day Service held in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

Michigan officials are warning service members about potential scams related to lawsuits over contaminated drinking water on a Marine base in North Carolina.

A recent federal law made it easier for those stationed at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and dealing with certain health issues to sue.

Reports have suggested the issues could affect over a million people. Meanwhile, law firms have been packing the airwaves with ads targeting those interested in receiving a settlement.

In a new partner video with the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, state Attorney General Dana Nessel warned of “bad actors” hoping to take advantage of the situation.

“Many of these so-called veterans' advocates and attorneys do not have our veterans’ best interests at heart. And if they are able to secure funds for you, they may help themselves to more of the settlement funds than they really deserve,” Nessel said.

Officials recommend checking into fees, under what circumstances those fees would be owed, and how any settlement would affect existing service benefits.

VFW Michigan State Legislative Director Kevin Hensley echoed those calls for anyone interested in making a claim to do their research first.

“I would really suggest to them to find an accredited service officer through the State of Michigan, whether it be the county, the veteran service organizations, DAV [Disabled American Veterans], the American Legion, the VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars], talk to somebody about that,” he said.

Hensley explained accredited service officers have gone through training to receive accreditation from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs. They also don’t charge fees.

Hensley said non-accredited service officers can face weaker punishments than accredited ones for unethical behavior that can leave veterans on the hook for “fictitious or wrong information.”

He also wants veterans to know the law that expands benefits and compensation for people who were stationed at the camp -- the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act -- covers conditions beyond those related to water contamination at Camp Lejeune.

“It’s 23 conditions that have cancers and respiratory illnesses. And it covers Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan and potentially future wars and other ailments,” Hensley said.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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