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.