Agent Orange Exposure Presumed for Veterans of Territorial Sea
Yesterday, 1/29/19, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit released a decision for the Procopio v. Wilkie case that extends Agent Orange rights to Veterans who served in the 12 nautical mile territorial sea of the Republic of Vietnam, but haven’t been able to prove “foot-on-land”/“boots-on-the-ground.” This is a big win for many Veterans.
This has been an area of great controversy since the Haas v. Peake case of 2008. Since Haas, Veterans who were able to prove "boots-on-the-ground" were given a presumption of exposure to Agent Orange if they served during a specified time frame. However, Veterans who could not prove that their boots touched the ground were excluded from this. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit concluded yesterday that Veterans who had boots-on-the-ground AND Veterans who were present in the territorial sea of the Republic of Vietnam are to be given the rights provided by the Agent Orange Act of 1991. The court did this by defining what a country is and determining that a country includes both the landmass and its territorial waterways.
Now Veterans that served in the territorial sea of the Republic of Vietnam are given the same presumption that they were exposed to Agent Orange (if they served during the specified time frame), allowing them to connect their ailments appropriately.
Source: Procopio v. Wilkie (Fed. Cir., 2019) http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/opinions-orders/17-1821.Opinion.1-29-2019.pdf