The Department of Justice has decided not to appeal the Procopio decision, meaning a federal court ruling earlier this year that determined tens of thousands of “Blue Water” Navy Vietnam veterans are eligible for disability benefits is now settled law.
This is a major victory that should mean benefits for as many as 90,000 veterans who served aboard ship and were exposed to Agent Orange, even without legislation — however, the Association of the United States Navy will continue to push for the passage of S. 1195, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, which would tie up any loose ends. The House version, HR 299, was passed last month.
In January, a federal court ruled 9-2 in Procopio vs. Wilkie that Navy Vietnam veterans who served aboard ship but did not set foot on land should be presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange and should therefore be eligible for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. DOJ lawyers had asked for deadline extensions to file an appeal twice since then, even though the VA said they won’t challenge the court decision, but on Tuesday the DOJ finally confirmed that they won’t argue against it.
Many questions remain on funding and implementation of the court decision, so the issue is far from settled, but we will continue to monitor the issue and keep our membership informed of Blue Water Navy developments.