WASHINGTON – Ten national veterans organizations pleaded with President Donald Trump on Tuesday, asking him to direct the Justice Department not to appeal a recent federal court decision that could extend benefits to thousands of Vietnam War veterans.
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled 9-2 in January that “Blue Water” Navy veterans, those who served aboard ships offshore during the war, are eligible for benefits to treat illnesses linked to exposure to the chemical herbicide Agent Orange.
The Justice Department and Department of Veterans Affairs have until the end of the month to seek a review of the case from the U.S. Supreme Court. VA General Counsel James Byrne said last month that the agency hadn’t decided whether it would appeal but officials were “taking it under advisement.”
Veterans and lawmakers have asked VA Secretary Robert Wilkie not to contest the decision. On Tuesday night, 10 groups appealed directly to Trump.
“On behalf of the undersigned veterans service organizations and our millions of members, we urge you to direct the Justice Department NOT to appeal the U.S. Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit decision,” they wrote in a letter to the president.
The court ruled in favor of Alfred Procopio, Jr., 73, who served on the USS Intrepid during the Vietnam War. Procopio is one of tens of thousands of veterans who served aboard aircraft carriers, destroyers and other ships and were deemed ineligible for the same disability benefits as those veterans who served on the ground and inland waterways.