May 01, 2019

Out of the Blue: the Procopio Decision and its Impact on Vietnam Navy Veterans

Larissa Tiller, JD Candidate, 2019, University of Missouri School of Law, Columbia, MO

Introduction

In Vietnam, Navy veteran Alfred Procopio Jr. spent three years fighting for the U.S. government. Back on home soil, he spent 10 years fighting against it.

Mr. Procopio was diagnosed with diabetes in 2006 and prostate cancer in 2007 – both conditions presumed to be service-connected under the Agent Orange Act of 1991 for any veteran who served in Vietnam. Because Mr. Procopio was on a ship that patrolled off the coast of the country, however, the Veterans Administration (VA) determined that his disability claims were not service-connected. His claims for both conditions were repeatedly denied, first in 2009, then in 2011, and again in 2015. Mr. Procopio appealed these decisions to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims where the court upheld the VA’s denials. He then brought his claim before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which on January 29, 2019 finally ruled in his favor and found that he was entitled to the same presumption of service-connection as his fellow Vietnam-era servicemen. 

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