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New Mexico VA Rejected Majority of Gulf War Veteran Claims

gwi

By Debbie Gregory.

A federal report shows that a Veterans Affairs office in New Mexico has denied 592 out of 640 of benefit claims related to Gulf War Illness (GWI), also known as Gulf War Syndrome.

Data from the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that Albuquerque’s Department of Veterans Affairs denied about 90% of these claims in 2015.

According to the report, VA staff members noted the complexity of GWI claims, which was first identified in soldiers returning home from Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield in the early 1990s.

Lack of training on the part of the medical examiners may be to blame. There is a 90-minute training course on Gulf War illness, but currently taking the course is voluntary, and only 1 in 10 of the VA’s 4,000 medical examiners had completed it, according to the report.

Gulf War illness has two main clinical categories: medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness and undiagnosed illness. Symptoms include joint pain, chronic fatigue syndrome and neurological problems.

There were many factors present in the Gulf during the war that could have played a role in causing illness in those present at the time. It is likely that a combination of these factors together is what led to the illness. Exposure to infectious diseases, biological and chemical weapons, as well as toxic elements, such as smoke from burning oil wells, are believed to have caused Gulf War illnesses.

Sonja Brown, acting associate director of the New Mexico VA Health Care System said that the Gulf War Examination training is currently on their curriculum for their medical.

“While I don’t have a percentage of those completed, I can tell you that the training is being taken,” Brown said.

The VA said all its pension and compensation examiners will complete the mandatory 90-minute course on GWI by November, and it will make necessary changes in the notification process by August.

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Texas VA Office Denies Most of its Gulf War Claims

waco va

By Debbie Gregory.

A federal report shows that a Veterans Affairs office in Texas has denied more than 90 percent of benefit claims related to Gulf War illnesses.

The data from the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that Waco’s Department of Veterans Affairs denied almost 1,100 claims in 2015. This gives Central Texas veterans one of the highest denial rates in the nation.

Part of the issue could be poorly trained examiners, as well as inconsistent methods of handling claims.

According to the report, VA staff members noted the complexity of Gulf War illness claims, with medical examiners stating that they would benefit from additional training on Gulf War illness and how to conduct these exams. The VA has made the training course mandatory. A VA spokeswoman said Waco medical examiners are anticipated to complete the training by November.

Gulf War illness has two main clinical categories: medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness and undiagnosed illness. Symptoms include joint pain, chronic fatigue syndrome and neurological problems. Exposure to toxic elements, such as smoke from burning oil wells, depleted uranium and chemical warfare agents are believed to have caused Gulf War illnesses.

The VA estimates that 44 percent of the 700,000 service members who served in the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War have developed illnesses.

The VA claims that when making decisions on claims, VA staff members carefully and compassionately consider all available supporting evidence for each claim.

“(Gulf War illness) disability compensation claim laws and regulations need urgent overhaul,” said Paul Sullivan, director of veteran outreach for the Bergmann and Moore law firm, and a Gulf War veteran whose own claim remains in limbo after 25 years.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.