On January 29, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued the groundbreaking decision Procopio v. Wilkie, No. 2017-1821 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 29, 2019). The Court held that veterans who served in the 12 nautical mile territorial seas of the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam era are entitled to the presumption that they were exposed to Agent Orange.
This decision opens the door for tens of thousands of Blue Water Vietnam Veterans or their survivors to obtain service-connected VA disability or death benefits for diseases caused by Agent Orange exposure.
Pending VA Regulation, veterans who served within the 12 nautical miles of Vietnam during the Vietnam era would be entitled to service connected disability benefits for diseases the VA presumes are associated with Agent Orange exposure. Those diseases 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).
What’s the qualifying veteran or survivor’s next step:
1. If the VA previously denied service-connected disability or death benefits for an Agent Orange-related disease on the bases that the veteran was not exposed to Agent Orange because he or she served only in the waters offshore Vietnam, and that denial has become final, then a Supplemental Claim to reopen the claim for service connection or DIC for the Agent Orange-related diseases, siting the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s recent decision in Procopio v. Wilkie, No. 2017-1821 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 29, 2019) to supports an award of benefits.
2. If the veteran or survivor has not previously submitted a claim for service-connected disability or death benefits for an Agent Orange-related disease, but the veteran suffers from or died of an Agent Orange-related disease, you should immediately file with the VA a claim for service connected disability or death benefits for all relevant Agent Orange-related diseases. The earlier you file the claim, the earlier will be the effective date for the award of benefits if you ultimately are granted benefits based on Agent Orange exposure. Also site the U.S. Court decision.
3. If the veteran or survivor has a pending claim for service-connected disability or death benefits for an Agent Orange-related disease and the VA has not yet issued a decision on that claim, no action is required.
Please keep in mind that currently these claims are on hold until VA Regulations are prepared to help guide the granting of these claims. To secure the earliest effective date you must file your request now.
If you are a Montgomery County resident our office will be able to assist you with this process. If you reside in another area, we would be happy to provide information on where you can go to file your request.
Please contact us at 936-539-7842 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.