New partnership is helping survivors and dependents avoid predatory firms
In October 2022, The American Legion and law firm Bergmann & Moore (B&M) entered into a memorandum of understanding to help Legionnaires understand the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA), which allows certain veterans to collect damages from the federal government due to their exposure to contaminated water on the Marine Corps base. B&M is a national law firm founded in 2004 and managed by former VA attorneys providing high-quality representation of veterans before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), and other courts as well as providing effective advocacy training in VA benefits law, including CAVC cases and related matters.
Since its founding in 1919, the American Legion Auxiliary has held a strong relationship with the Legion. Committed to taking care of veterans and military, the Auxiliary puts its trust in the Legion to ensure the utmost attention and consideration is given to those we serve. The ALA signed a memorandum of understanding with B&M in May 2023. As part of this new partnership:
• In collaboration with B&M and The American Legion, the ALA is assisting and creating and implementing a service project initiative of outreach and support for veterans, their survivors, and dependents interested in participating in the PACT Act/CLJA litigation.
• Assisting with the protection of Legion members and their families through comprehensive education, advocacy, and assistance in determining whether a claim under the CLJA would be beneficial to them when compared with filing for and receiving benefits from programs administered by the VA.
• Through the ALA, encouraging veterans to visit their Legion Department Service Officer about the maximum benefits allowed under the law while protecting against predatory and/or unscrupulous actors; and/or to prevent Legion members and their family members from accepting/receiving a one-time benefit under the CLJA to the detriment of greater, future VA program eligibility and entitlement.
• Assisting with the promotion of resources — education and information to ensure veterans, spouses, and dependents do not become victims of predatory practices.
Bergmann & Moore has provided American Legion service officer training and legal consultation since 2017. Not only have they delivered no-cost representation to Legionnaires, family members, and others, but they also train Legion advocates through a national training program to prepare Legion Department Service Officers to win the most VA benefits for veterans and families at the local VA regional office.
Although the Camp Lejeune Justice Act potentially offers benefits to veterans and their families, it’s important that these benefits are carefully evaluated by a firm that understands VA disability benefits. Bergmann & Moore are Veteran Affairs disability benefits attorneys who have helped veterans and families for almost two decades.
Bergmann & Moore is working with The American Legion and ALA to make sure its members and their families are not taken advantage of by mass tort firms that advertise on television but don’t actually understand VA benefits.
Veterans, family members, and others who were affected by contaminated water at Camp Lejeune are encouraged to consult American Legion-accredited service officers about the lawsuit or any other matters related to the PACT Act, which extends VA disability relief for veterans exposed to toxic contamination. Visit Legion.org and click on “Find a Service Officer” to reach an accredited advocate by ZIP code.
American Legion Auxiliary members can continue showing their support in three ways:
• Outreach: notifying membership about the facts.
• Promoting understanding to counter confusion.
• Correcting misrepresentations.
Coordinating an accurate message is key:
• Educating veterans and families of CLJA.
• Informing Legion members, Auxiliary members, and their families through mailings or public service announcements explaining options.
• Protecting Legion members and their families from predatory and dishonest actors.
• Ensuring any process changes or updates are broadcast.
More information will be forthcoming to ALA members. Follow National Headquarters’ social media accounts @ALAforVeterans for the most up-to-date notifications.