Agent Orange exposure extended

The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) hailed the decision on 5 June 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 Viet Nam.

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 its territorial seas (encompassing Viet Nam’s harbors, including Da Nang). With this decision, tens of thousands of Blue Water Vietnam Veterans who served in the 12 nautical mile territorial sea of the Republic of Viet Nam or their survivors now can obtain service-connected VA disability or death benefits (DIC) 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 www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/conditions

Blue Water Vietnam Veterans previously denied Agent Orange related benefits can contact NVLSP for assistance by email at bluewater2019@nvlsp.org or via phone toll-free (855/333-0677). Information is also available on NVLSP’s website (www.nvlsp.org).

From 2005-09, NVLSP litigated the Haas case, which challenged the VA policy limiting the presumption of Agent Orange exposure to veterans who had “boots on the ground” or served on the inland waterways of Viet Nam. The Federal Circuit ruled by a vote of 2-to-1 in Haas that the term “service in the Republic of Vietnam” was ambiguous, and allowed the VA’s interpretation to stand, which has remained the policy for determining Agent Orange disability benefits for the last 10 years.