On January 29, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided the case of Procopio v. Wilkie. This case involved the claim of Alfred Procopio a veteran of the U.S. Navy who served in waters off Vietnam and sought service-connected compensation for prostate cancer and diabetes, two conditions that the VA has found are caused by exposure to Agent Orange. Mr. Procopio’s claim was denied by the VA as he did not set foot on land in Vietnam. He was considered a Blue Water vet and, by VA definition, ineligible for benefits for diseases caused by Agent Orange.
The Court held that the law Congress passed in 1991, allowing compensation for vets exposed to Agent Orange, included vets who served in the territorial waters of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). The Court found that the term Congress used in the law, “Republic of Vietnam,” included the country’s territorial waters (a zone extending for 12 miles off its shore lines.)
This is a great victory for these veterans. For years they have been denied benefits that were available to vets who set foot on land in Vietnam, even though they were exposed to Agent Orange in the water and air during their time on board ships off the coast of South Vietnam.
The VA has not yet decided if it will ask the Supreme Court to review this decision. Please continue to check our website for updates.
If you have any questions about how this decision may affect you, please call the veteran’s practice attorneys at Abes Baumann, P.C. for a free consultation.