Published: January 29, 2019 | Last Updated: January 2020
Blue Water Vets (And Families) Are Officially Eligible for Compensation
If you suffered symptoms from the Agent Orange defoliant, the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans ruled on January 29, 2019, that the VA must include at sea vets for Agent Orange benefits and compensation. On March 26, 2019, the VA Secretary announced he recommends against pursuing an appeal. On June 25, 2019, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 was signed into law. In January 2020, the VA began processing these Blue Water claims.
On July 1, 2019, in response, the VA Secretary Robert Wilkie issued a stay of blue water veterans’ claims and existing appeals until January 2020.
Procopio v. Wilkie: Federal Court Rules in Favor of Vietnam Blue Water Vet
On January 29, 2019, the Federal Circuit court ruled in favor of Blue Water vet Alfred Procopio, Jr. in Procopio v. Wilkie. Mr. Procopio argued that the phrase “Republic of Vietnam” in the Agent Orange Act of 1991 was intended to include territorial seas.
This ruling means the presumption of Agent Orange exposure HAS to extend to veterans who served aboard ships off the coast of Vietnam. This is an enormous step forward toward getting the veterans compensation that tens of thousands of vets who served on land have been entitled to for years.
On March 26, 2019, the VA Secretary, Robert Wilkie, announced that he was recommending to the United States Justice Department that they not fight the January court ruling. Practically, this means that Blue Water veterans can expect eligibility to remain open to them for Agent Orange compensation.
Background: Decades-Old Pattern of Lies and Resistance by VA to Not Care for Vets Exposed to Agent Orange
The U.S. has a history of using this known poison across the world, playing down the effects and often lying about its use altogether.
One of the major manufacturers of Agent Orange, Dow’s Biochemical Research Library, had a toxicologist that wrote the following regarding components of the chemicals in a letter which was declassified many decades later¹:
“This material is exceptionally toxic; it has a tremendous potential for producing chloracne and systemic injury. […] The whole 2,4,5-T industry would be hard hit and I would expect restrictive legislation, either barring the material or putting very rigid controls upon it.”
“There is no reason why we cannot get this problem under strict control and thereby hopefully avoid restrictive legislation … I trust you will be very judicious in your use of this information. It could be quite embarrassing if it were misinterpreted or misused … P.S. Under no circumstances may this letter be reproduced, shown, or sent to anyone outside of Dow.”
Frighteningly, it appears the U.S. was aware of these dangers to some extent. In 1990, a report called the Zumwalt Report was declassified. In it, a former government scientist wrote to a senator:
“When we (military scientists) initiated the herbicide program in the 1960’s, we were aware of the potential for damage due to dioxin (Agent Orange) contamination in the herbicide. We were even aware that the ‘military’ formulation had a higher dioxin concentration than the ‘civilian’ version due to the lower cost and speed of manufacture. However, because the material was to be used on the ‘enemy’, none of us were overly concerned. We never considered a scenario in which our own personnel would become contaminated with the herbicide. And, if we had, we would have expected our own government to give assistance to veterans so contaminated.”
Agent Orange was used in Vietnam and the DMZ between North and South Korea. Drums of Agent Orange were also found in Thailand. Reports from other areas in the globe have pointed toward Agent Orange use.
Once mounting pressure came on the government, it finally relented and admitted both the use and toxicity of Agent Orange. It wasn’t until 1991 that anyone was able to receive compensation when Congress passed an act acknowledging that soldiers had been exposed and should be helped through their pain and suffering.
The Ridiculous Rule: If You Touched Land, We’ll Pay
The Agent Orange Act of 1991 presented the presumption of exposure for Vets who spent time in Vietnam. This means that because the individual served during the war in Vietnam, they were assumed to have been affected by the chemicals.
However, in 2002, the VA effectively rewrote its rules for offering compensation and asserted that presumption of exposure applied to those who had set foot on land or entered an “inland waterway”. This meant that if you never actually touched land, no matter how close you were to it, or your ship never quite entered a waterway from the sea, you were not exposed.
Suddenly, approximately 90,000 veterans were excluded from being helped through their health problems, the same health problems their comrades suffered that went on land. Fortunately, the new ruling in Procopio v. Wilkie fixes this egregious oversight!
The VA asserts that the chemicals used in Agent Orange simply did not travel in any way and that the soldiers at sea were not affected. Try telling this to a Vet who has suffered for decades the same illnesses that the VA has openly acknowledged are connected to Agent Orange exposure…
Medical Conditions Related to Agent Orange Exposure
Eventually, the VA was forced to outline which conditions were associated with Agent Orange exposure. The following list is based on the VA’s which can be found here with greater detail.
- AL Amyloidosis
- Chronic B-cell Leukemias
- Chloracne (or similar acneform disease)
- Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
- Hodgkin’s Disease
- Ischemic Heart Disease
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset
- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
- Prostate Cancer
- Respiratory Cancers (includes lung cancer)
- Soft Tissue Sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
If you or your loved one served in Vietnam and has suffered from the above diseases, you are eligible for compensation. If you are a Blue Water Vet, only vets with a properly filed claim may be eligible. Our firm has represented thousands of vets affected by Agent Orange.
To get your claim started, call and speak with one of our team members at (888) 477-2363 or click the red button below to fill out an online form. It costs you nothing to start a claim. Our firm will only be paid if and when we win compensation for you. If you have further questions about what to expect, please let our team know. We are here to help. We have helped many frustrated vets over the years and for some, this is a great relief to know that they’re joining the fight to get the VA to accept their claims.
Hill & Ponton Has Represented Thousands of Vets Since the 1990s
Our firm has been fighting for vets since before Congress passed the Agent Orange Act of 1991. Approximately ten years ago, we saw that the VA was systematically rejecting vets’ claims for help following Agent Orange exposure. As noted above, the VA’s stance was that if the individual never touched land or entered an “inland waterway,” the vet was not deserving of help (even if the symptoms matched those of soldiers that did touch land).
Hill & Ponton has represented Blue Water Vets for over 10 years and now has a leading supreme court case to reverse the law. Our firm has invested tens of thousands of hours and extensive resources to fight for vets. We believe that these individuals and their families deserve compensation following the harmful exposure to Agent Orange. Our firm will be paid a portion of what our clients are awarded from the VA when compensation is given.