For many of the First Gulf War veterans with unexplainable physical, neurological and cognitive symptoms, fighting for their VA benefits has been an uphill battle. Several years ago at the Southwest Disability Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico a focus of the conference was the Gulf War Syndrome. One of the presentations showed an amazing documentary of the struggles encountered by Gulf War vets with severe debilitating symptoms to gain their benefits and access to care.
A former VA epidemiologist testified before Congress recently about the VA’s failure to recognize the Gulf War Syndrome and to provide the veterans with problems stemming from the disease with appropriate access to care and disability benefits. The Institute of Medicine has defined the Gulf War Syndrome as a chronic multi-symptom illness which lasts 6 months or longer with at least 2 of the 6 following symptoms: fatigue; mood and cognition; musculosketal; gastrointestinal; respiratory and neurologic. In the documentary film showed at the Southwest Disability Conference each of these symptom sets was vividly depicted as the film followed veteran’s over time. One vet with severe neurologic problems was experiencing ALS-like symptoms and was totally disabled. Another struggled with severe fatigue, cognitive problems and devastating depression. Both individuals had received a psychiatric diagnosis and were receiving small disability payments but were totally dependent on others and requiring high levels of care.
We’re now dealing with the aftermath of another war and another group of returning veterans who may not have been screened for severe psychological and psychiatric symptoms like PTSD or brain injury stemming from multiple concussions and blast injuries. Its time for us to take care of our returning soldiers. We ask these men and women to put their lives on the line and we now owe them the care and resources they need.
Click here to read the MedPage summary of the Gulf War Syndrome.