The VA To Pay For Navy Veterans’ Exposure To Agent Orange

Up until now, veterans who physically served (“Boots on the Ground”) in Vietnam have been able to file VA disability claims for certain illnesses due to their exposure to Agent Orange while in country. The veteran would have been in Vietnam between Feb. 28, 1961 through May 7, 1975. The illnesses are: al amyloidosis, chronic B-cell leukemias, chloracne, diabetes Mellitus Type 2, Hodgkins disease, ischemic heart disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, peripheral neuropathy, acute and subacute, porphyria cutanea tarda, prostate cancer, respiratory Cancers (including lung cancer) and soft tissue sarcomas.

For years, the VA excluded U.S. Navy and Marine personnel who served on board ships that came within the 12-nautical mile territorial limits of Vietnam. These individuals were known as “Blue Water” Vietnam veterans. They were excluded because they did not have the required “Boots on the Ground” in Vietnam.

On Jan. 29, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled 9-to-2 in Procopio versus Wilkie that Congress intends that all who served within the 12-nautical mile territorial sea of the Republic of Vietnam are covered by the “Agent Orange presumption,” the same as “Boots on the Ground” veterans.

This means that “Blue Water” Vietnam veterans (who served within the 12-nautical mile territorial sea) who filed VA claims and were turned down may refile.

The 9-to-2 decision reverses a decade-old ruling for between 50,000 to 70,000 veterans nationwide. The court majority found that Congress clearly intended to extend benefits to sailors and Marines who were stationed in the territorial seas of Vietnam.

Of additional interest, this particular U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is unique among federal appeals courts because it has “subject matter” rather than “geographic” jurisdiction. This means that unlike other U.S. Courts of Appeal, that are organized by geographic region, this court’s decisions cover the entire U.S.A.

This decision will also impact surviving spouses who filed (or will be filing) for Dependency & Indemnity Compensation claims based upon a veteran’s death being service connected (caused by the conditions noted above).

“Blue Water” Vietnam veterans may call (828) 884-3276 or email veterans.service@transylvaniacounty.org at the Transylvania County Veterans Service Office to schedule an appointment to see if they need to file or refile a VA disability claim.

The Transylvania County Veterans Service Office is located in the Community Services Building, 106 E. Morgan St., Room 237 (second floor) in Brevard .

The Community Services Building (three-story red brick building) is located just above the Sylvan Valley Dental Office, across East Morgan Street from the American Legion building, across South Gaston Street from the Board of Elections and cater-cornered to the Baptist Church. As a further reference, this is the same building that houses the Department of Social Services, Building Permits and the Transportation Department.

The office is normally open on Tuesdays and Thursdays for walk-in traffic and appointments, 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. The office is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays by appointment.

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