Dropping the Ball on Benefits For Gulf War Syndrome?
n 1994, the U.S. Congress passed legislation that provided a “presumption” to Gulf War veterans suffering from undiagnosed illnesses. Once the bill was approved, the afflicted individuals did not have to prove to the Veterans Administration (VA) that their medical issues were a result of military service.
Twenty-three years later, the “gray areas” are creating problems for former service members applying for disability benefits. Last month, the Government Accountability Office released alarming statistics revealing the VA’s rate of approvals for military people who served in the Gulf War.
From 2010 to 2015, the department approved a mere 17 percent of the claims for Gulf War-associated illnesses. Out of 102,000 cases, 84,000 applicants were denied. The rate is lower than the 57 percent of approved claims for all other medical issues in the same span of time.
The study cites confusion by VA staff on the handling of applications. Only ten percent of medical examiners – professionals who play a vital role in providing information – received training on Gulf War illness diagnoses. The other 90 percent simply failed to undergo the 90-minute online course.
The VA cites the complexity of Gulf War illnesses and the lack of a single definition in their high rate of rejected claims. Currently, the list of disabling conditions include (fibromyalgia, fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders), and nine other infectious diseases.
Pieces of the puzzle have yet to be fully assembled, in spite of the VA spending more than $160 million on Gulf War illness-related research from 1994 to 2015. In addition, $12.3 million of research fund was also allocated in 2016.