A trio of Texas news articles highlights Gulf War veterans’ ongoing struggles with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the leading advocacy by Veterans for Common Sense on their behalf.
A pair of May 12, 2018 news stories reported:
“In a November meeting with [VA Secretary] Shulkin, veterans’ advocates said they were assured that improvements would be made. According to interviews with four people in the meeting, Shulkin agreed to set up a new VA-led working group to tackle longstanding problems related to claims. But Shulkin is gone and the VA leadership in flux. …
“Veterans for Common Sense director Anthony Hardie, a disabled Gulf War veteran, said Shulkin had agreed to everything asked of him.“He went for it all. I was surprised at what an easy sell it was. It’s really disappointing now because we thought we had a good shot at getting these things fixed,” Hardie said.
And then a May 15 follow-on editorial by the San Antonio Express-News editorial board (“VA Should Pay More Heed to Gulf War Vets“) emphasized what VCS has been telling VA leaders and Congress for years:
“The nation is just shy of three decades since the 1991 Gulf War. Since then, there has been mounting evidence that unique events in that short war have had long-lasting health effects on the service members who served. …there shouldn’t be the [VA disability claims] rejection rates reported — higher than for other disabilities. It projects the appearance of foot dragging because the costs to treat may be deemed too high.”
There’s much that remains to be done to fix the 80 percent denial rate of Gulf War veterans’ VA claims, including legislation to fix unworkable “undiagnosed illness” claims, and fixing VA training programs and making them mandatory for all VA workers who have a role in denying them.
VCS and Gulf War veterans have found a strong ally in several national veterans service organizations, including The American Legion. As stated in the May 12 news stories:
“Gulf War veterans by law are entitled to benefits if they have certain service-connected disabilities. They also may qualify under a “presumptive service connection” rule if they have multi-symptom diseases classified as undiagnosed.
“But, as Louis Celli, the American Legion’s director of veterans’ affairs, notes: “Doctors don’t want to say ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with you,’ so they will send you to somebody else. Getting an undiagnosed illness as a diagnosis is very difficult.””