Procopio, et. al. v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs – Navy Veterans Lose Expedited Review for Agent Orange Exposure During Vietnam War
NAVY VETERANS SEEK EXPEDITED REVIEW OF AGENT ORANGE CLAIMS
The Court of Appeals Federal Circuit, held in Procopio, et al. v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (Court of Appeals Federal Circuit 12/08/2019) https://roguevalleylegal.com/summaries/12052019vb.pdf 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.
FEDERAL COURT FINDS SECRETARY DOES NOT NEED TO REVIEW VETERANS CLAIMS UNTIL JANUARY 1, 2020
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.
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