BY TOM BURKE, CHAIR
We move into 2018 with the understanding that we continue pushing forward. We currently hold the interest of Congress because we know what we are talking about when we go to the Hill and they know we do. We need to capitalize on that knowledge.
Here is the Veterans Benefits Committee’s first action in conjunction with Government Affairs. A Blue Water Navy amicus brief was filed jointly with the National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates, the National Veterans Legal Services Program, Military Officers Association of America, National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. This issue was brought to our attention by Rick Weidman and referred to the Veterans Benefits Committee through Director Kelsey Yoon for approval, then brought to the BOD.
VVA is supporting Vietnam veteran Robert Gray, who has challenged the VA’s revised definition of “inland waterways,” which expressly eliminates the presumption of exposure to certain herbicides to those who served in Da Nang Harbor, as well as in Vietnam’s other ports, harbors, and bays during the conflict.
Previously, in Gray v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs—Case 16-1782 (Fed. Cir. 16 Nov. 2017)—a Federal Circuit Court dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction to review rules if VA publishes them in its internally binding administrative staff manual. Last December the plaintiffs filed a petition requesting a rehearing to overturn DAV v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, 859 F.3d1072 (Fed.Cir.2017), arguing that the court does have jurisdiction to review rules that the VA publishes.
By supporting this motion, VVA supports veterans who served in Vietnam’s ports, harbors, and bays during the war. Blue Water Navy veterans were exposed to herbicides and should be presumed exposed for purposes of obtaining disability benefits. The case also supports the idea that courts have jurisdiction to review VA rules, which is an important judicial check on the VA. This has a direct impact on many VVA members who served in the Navy.