13-year Blue Water case finally comes to a close

‘Blue Water’ Navy veteran Alfred Procopio Jr. persevered through 13 years of denials to prove that his illnesses were exposure-related and caused by the toxic chemical Agent Orange during his time of service. Procopio was 61 years old when he originally filed his claim. Next month, he’ll be 74.

According to an article published by Stripes.com, “Blue Water veterans — who served on open sea ships off the shore of Vietnam but did not step foot on land — have been blocked for decades from the same Department of Veterans Affairs benefits afforded those who served in Vietnam or its inland waterways. The government argued there wasn’t enough evidence that poisonous herbicides contaminated the water used on their ships. That changed in January when Procopio won his case. The Department of Justice decided in May to not challenge the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of Blue Water veterans. Congress approved legislation last week clarifying that those veterans are eligible for VA disability benefits. Lawmakers sent the bill to the White House on Tuesday, where it’s awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature.”

Inn October 2006, Procopio filed his first exposure-related claim for diabetes. Then he filed another claim for prostate cancer in October 2007. Both claims were denied by the VA 2 years later in April 2009. Following the denial, he pursued a reversal from the Board of Veterans’ Appeals but was again denied in March 2011.

In 2014, attorney and retired Navy commander John Wells, took Procopio’s case. At that time Wells was the executive director of Military-Veterans Advocacy and had been advocating for years to extend benefits to Blue Water veterans. When he reviewed Procopio’s case, he realized its potential effects saying, “Wow, this is the case we’ve been waiting for…We thought it was the…perfect case, and that’s why I pushed him as hard as I did. We figured if we won this one, it would have the largest impact.”

Following more years of denials from the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Procopio continued to appeal until beginning a multiyear process through the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Then, on Jan. 29 of this year, the court ruled in Procopio’s favor. Kathleen M. O’Malley, a circuit judge who was in favor of Procopio’s claim, said that “The VA failed to give deference to Blue Water veterans, which Congress had intended when it wrote the law.”

To learn more about this good news for Blue Water Navy veterans, click HERE.

Relevant pages: Veterans Disability