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Are Blue Water Sailors Eligible for Agent Orange Compensation?

Published on July 9th, 2019

After a recent Federal Circuit Court ruling, navy veterans who served off the shores of Vietnam will now be eligible for disability compensation for exposure to Agent Orange. Widely used in the Vietnam conflict, the infamous Agent Orange herbicide has been shown to cause many health conditions including cancer, diabetes, Parkinsons, and heart disease. Before the ruling, only brown water sailors, or navy veterans who served in Vietnam’s inland waterways or went ashore in Vietnam, benefited from a presumption of Agent Orange exposure.

Now, blue water sailors, a term which refers to navy personnel who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam, will also benefit from this presumption. They no longer need to demonstrate that they went ashore at some point during the conflict. This means that over 50,000 navy veterans may potentially qualify for veterans disability compensation because of exposure to Agent Orange. If you or a loved one served on a ship in Vietnam, call Jackson & MacNichol today for a free consultation about how you might qualify for veterans disability benefits.

Federal Appeals Court Grants Agent Orange Benefits to Blue Water Sailors

Alfred Procopio, Jr. is a 73-year-old navy veteran who served on the USS Intrepid during the Vietnam War. Suffering from prostate cancer and diabetes mellitus, he applied for veterans disability compensation, arguing that his medical conditions were service related because they were likely caused by exposure to Agent Orange. Like most other blue water sailors claiming benefits for Agent Orange exposure, his application was denied. Fortunately, Procopio hired an experienced Veterans disability lawyer and appealed the decision.

The law gives a presumption of Agent Orange exposure to veterans who “served in the Republic of Vietnam,” and who suffer from one of the many medical conditions associated with it. But the VA’s position was that service in the Republic of Vietnam did not include service on ships operating in the country’s coastal waters. Only people who went ashore or who served aboard small watercraft operating on inland waterways benefit from this presumption of exposure to Agent Orange. Procopio’s lawyers argued that this distinction was unlawful and arbitrary, and that he and other blue water sailors were likely exposed to Agent Orange during the conflict.

Ten years after his initial application for veterans disability compensation, Procopio’s legal battle has finally come to an end. A federal appeals court ruled that service in the Republic of Vietnam includes service in its coastal waters, where exposure to Agent Orange may have also occurred. The Federal Circuit Court accordingly reversed the decision of Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, which had ruled that Procopio was not entitled to benefits. The VA will now have to consider his disability claim again, and they will almost certainly grant him the compensation he deserves.

Never Give Up on Your Veterans Disability Claim

One lesson to be learned from this case is perseverance. After multiple denials, Procopio and his legal team took his veterans disability compensation case all the way to the Federal Court of Appeals, where justice was done after a long and hard-fought battle. Too many veterans give up on their disability claim when they receive an initial denial letter from their Regional Office. Don’t make the same mistake. Call Jackson & MacNichol today at 800-524-3339 for a free consultation about how to appeal the denial of your veterans disability compensation.


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