Only July 1, 2019, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ordered the Veterans Benefits Administration and Board of Veterans Appeals to stay proceedings with respect to all claims for disability compensation that are based on service in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975.
Early yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit struck down the VA’s policy of denying disability benefits to Vietnam-era blue-water Navy veterans for exposure to Agent Orangeand other herbicides on a presumptive basis. In a case called Procopio v. Wilkie the court decided that veterans who served within the “territorial waters” of Vietnam are now entitled to presumptive service connection for diseases caused by Agent Orange exposure.
Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are becoming increasingly concerned that exposure to toxins produced by burn pits during deployments will parallel the experiences with VA suffered by the Vietnam generation’s Agent Orange. In an effort to help address these concerns, earlier this year Congress passed the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act. This Act marks the first major step by Congress to research how burn pits affected veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, while this legislation is another step forward in helping veterans suffering from exposure to burn pits, a true solution for burn pit exposure is most likely still years away.
On December 7, 2018, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a case called Procopio v. Wilke. Although this case has quietly made its way through the courts, it has the potential to dramatically change the manner in which the US Department of Veterans Affairs addresses service-connected disability benefits claims associated with exposure to Agent Orange.