March 18, 2008 – For more than two years, the Pentagon delayed screening troops returning from Iraq for mild brain injuries because officials feared veterans would blame vague ailments on the little-understood wound caused by exposure to bomb blasts, says the military’s director of medical assessments.
Air Force Col. Kenneth Cox said in an interview that the Pentagon wanted to avoid another controversy such as the so-called Gulf War syndrome. About 10,000 veterans blamed medical conditions from cancer to eczema on their service.
The Pentagon did not acknowledge the syndrome until Congress created a committee to study it in 1998.
For troops who think they may have a condition not designated as war-related, Cox said, often “they’re reacting to rumors, things that they’ve read about or heard about on the Internet or (from) their friends.”
That uncertainty, Cox said, means “some individuals will seek a diagnosis from provider to provider to provider.” It also makes treating veterans “much more difficult and much more costly,” he said.