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Procopio, et. al. v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs – Navy Veterans Lose Expedited Review for Agent Orange Exposure During Vietnam War


The Court of Appeals Federal Circuit, held in Procopio, et al. v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (Court of Appeals Federal Circuit 12/08/2019) that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has the authority to stay disability compensation claims until January 1, 2020. This is a disappointing holding for Navy Veterans who served in the Vietnam war. Many Navy Veterans may not live to see the award of their benefits.

Alfred Procopio, Jr., Johnnie Harper, Michael Yates, Michael Kvintus, Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association, Inc., and Military-Veterans Advocacy, Inc. (collectively, Petitioners) filed a petition for expedited review pursuant to 38 U.S.C. Section 502. They were challenging the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to stay pending disability compensation claims until January 1, 2020, which is the day the Act will be effective.


In this case, the individual petitioners are Blue Water Navy Veterans stationed on open sea ships off the Vietnamese shore during the Vietnam War. Following the Federal Circuit’s decision in Procopio v. Wilkie this year, many Blue Water Navy Veterans hoped they may be entitled to a presumption of service connection for diseases covered by 38 U.S.C. § 1116.2 913 F.3d 1371 (Fed. Cir. 2019)(en banc). Their hope was further bolstered by Congress’ passing of the Agent Orange Act (Act). That Act provides relief for many veterans who, prior to the court’s Procopio decision, were without such relief. But the Secretary’s decision to stay awarding of benefits pursuant to the Act posed new problems for Blue Water Navy Veterans. The Petitioners assert that many Navy Veterans from the Vietnam war are dying and may not live to see the benefits provided by the Act.

Petitioners filed for expedited review, challenging the Secretary’s authority to stay pending disability compensation claims until January 1, 2020. The Federal Circuit held that the Secretary had the authority, pursuant to Section 2(c)(3) of the Act, to stay such claims from the date of the Act’s enactment, until its effective date January 1, 2020. Thus, the court denied review.

If you need help with a claim for disability benefits, contact Cannon Disability Law today. We have won over $100 million in past-due benefits for our clients. In the past 30 years, we have won over 18,000 disability cases. We have the experience you need to win your benefits. Calling us costs you nothing. Give us a call or contact us on this website. We will answer your questions for free. Also, we can tell you if we can help you with your case without any cost to you. You have nothing to lose. Call us today.


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