NVLSP Hails DOJ’s Decision to Not Appeal Procopio Decision Finally Extending the Presumption of Agent Orange Exposure to Veterans Who Served in the Territorial Waters of Vietnam
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE- June 5, 2019
WASHINGTON -The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) today hailed the decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to not appeal the Procopio v. Wilkie decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit which extends the VA’s presumption of Agent Orange exposure to all veterans who served in the 12 nautical mile territorial sea of the Republic of Vietnam.
“Finally, justice for many of the Blue Water Vietnam Veterans who have waited long enough to be granted the disability benefits they need and deserve based on their exposure to Agent Orange,” said NVLSP Executive Director Bart Stichman. “We hope now that all parties involved will move expeditiously to give these veterans the long-overdue disability benefits they rightfully deserve.”
In Procopio, all of the judges on the Federal Circuit convened in 2019 and explicitly overruled its prior holding in Haas v. Peake, finding that Congress clearly intended the definition of “the Republic of Vietnam” to include the Republic of Vietnam’s territorial seas (which would encompass all of Vietnam’s harbors, including Da Nang Harbor).
With the Federal Circuit’s decision in Procopio final, tens of thousands of Blue Water Vietnam Veterans who served in the 12 nautical mile territorial sea of the Republic of Vietnam or their survivors now can obtain service-connected VA disability or death benefits for diseases caused by Agent Orange exposure. Diseases the VA presumes are associated with Agent Orange exposure include ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and numerous cancers. A full list of the diseases that the VA presumes are associated with exposure to Agent Orange can be found at https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/conditions/. Survivors of Blue Water Vietnam Veterans who died from one of these diseases would also become entitled to service-connected death benefits (known as DIC).
Blue Water Vietnam Veterans previously denied Agent Orange related benefits can contact NVLSP for assistance by email at email@example.com or via phone through our toll-free hotline: 855-333-0677. Information is also available on NVLSP’s website here.
From 2005 to 2009, NVLSP litigated the Haas case, which challenged the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) policy limiting the presumption of Agent Orange exposure to veterans who had “boots on the ground” or served on the inland waterways of Vietnam. Unfortunately, the Federal Circuit ruled by a vote of 2 to 1 in Haas that the term “service in the Republic of Vietnam” was ambiguous. Due to the ambiguity, the court allowed the VA’s interpretation to stand. That interpretation has remained the governing policy for determining Agent Orange disability benefits for the last 10 years until the court overturned Haas with its Procopio decision. NVLSP filed an amicus curiae brief in the Procopio case.
The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) is an independent, nonprofit veterans service organization that has served active duty military personnel and veterans since 1981. NVLSP strives to ensure that our nation honors its commitment to its 22 million veterans and active duty personnel by ensuring they have the benefits they have earned through their service to our country. NVLSP has represented veterans in lawsuits that compelled enforcement of the law where the VA or other military services denied benefits to veterans in violation of the law. NVLSP’s success in these lawsuits has resulted in more than $5.2 billion dollars being awarded in disability, death, and medical benefits to hundreds of thousands of veterans and their survivors. NVLSP offers training for attorneys and other advocates; connects veterans and active duty personnel with pro bono legal help when seeking disability benefits; publishes the nation's definitive guide on veteran benefits; and represents and litigates for veterans and their families before the VA, military discharge review agencies, and federal courts. For more information go to www.nvlsp.org.
For NVLSP: Patty Briotta, office 202-621-5698, cell 703-517-1796, firstname.lastname@example.org