Vanden Heuvel, son of a Dutch-Belgian couple,  began his studies at the Deep Springs College and graduated in rights at the Cornell University . He was admitted to the New York Bar in 1952 and then joined as Associate of the law firm Donovan, Leisure, Newton & Irvine.
He served for William Joseph Donovan, founder of the Office of Strategic Services , as an assistant to the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok from 1953 to 1954. He was also in 1958 adviser to New York Governor Averell Harriman .
In 1962 he became the assistant to Robert F. Kennedy , and he was involved in the political campaigns of Kennedy's 1964 and 1968. Since 1965 he has been a senior partner of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan in international and business law. During the administration of Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1979 he served as an ambassador for the European office of the United Nationsin Geneva and as deputy ambassador to the UN from 1979 to 1981 in New York City .
He then worked for several companies as include the U.S. Banknote Corporation, Time Warner and North Aegean Petroleum. He was also the senior adviser for the investment bank Allen & Company. Since 1984 he was chairman of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute .
He is a member of the think tank Council on Foreign Relations and supervisor and former president of the United Nations Association of the United States of America . He wrote extensively about the United Nations and U.S. foreign policy. He is also a member of the Collegium International, an organization that aims to overcome that to a more peaceful, socially just and economically sustainable world in the way the obstacles.
In 2002 he was awarded the Four Freedoms Award from the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.