Question: This is an unusual case involving an effort to obtain
This is an unusual case involving an effort to obtain judicial review of a Veterans Administration (VA) publication that was issued in 1978. The publication concerned the processing of claims fi led by veterans who were seeking to establish service connection to certain diseases that they claimed had developed as a result of exposure to defoliants during their service in Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. government sprayed herbicides over portions of Vietnam to defoliate dense jungle areas. The most widely sprayed herbicide was known as Agent Orange, a name that referred to the orange stripes identifying the drums in which it was stored. Agent Orange contained dioxin, a toxic contaminant. In 1978, Vietnam veterans began to fi le claims for disability benefits based on their expo- sure to Agent Orange. Veterans claimed that Agent Orange exposure resulted in a variety of disabilities, including cancer, neurological dysfunction, psychiatric problems, persistent joint pain, chronic fatigue, and genetic damage manifested in birth defects among the veterans' children. In response to those claims, the Veterans Administration issued a "ratings practices and procedures" document entitled "Disability--Vietnam Defoliant Exposure." The document, which is dated April 17, 1978, became known as the Agent Orange Program Guide. After issuing the Program Guide, the VA denied many claims alleging service connection between defoliant exposure and most disabilities. Petitioners are veterans or survivors of veterans who allege they are suffering disability from exposure to Agent Orange. When petitioners' initial complaint was filed in 1979, no court had statutory authority to review VA regulations for compliance with APA procedural requirements. It was not until 1988 that Congress authorized judicial review of procedural challenges to such regulations under the APA. The petitioners contend that the long delay in the resolution of their original lawsuit should not, in itself, create a time bar to relief. The government cites the six-year limitations period for civil actions brought against the United States in district courts. Do you believe that the court should toll the statute of limitations and review the publication? Or should the court dismiss the claim as time-barred? Why?
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