Viewpoint: Congress should support Gulf War Vets

Viewpoint: Congress should support Gulf War Vets

By Joe Baker

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

Legislation aimed at providing veterans suffering from Gulf War Syndrome with some compensation for their illness is moving ahead in Congress.

Rep. Don Manzullo, one of the sponsors of the Persian Gulf War Illness Compensation Act of 2001, testified before a House committee Tuesday. The bill is part of an overall benefits package the VA Subcommittee on Benefits will consider this month.

This would be the first time that Gulf War Illness is recognized as a war-related injury and requires the VA to compensate the victims accordingly.

A majority of the House–some 221 members–is co-sponsoring the measure.

“These brave fighting men and women risked their lives to protect our families and freedoms,” Manzullo said. “It’s time for the government to file away its unwarranted skepticism and help our suffering heroes and their families,” he added.

Since 1991, the federal government has spent more than $150 million studying Gulf War Syndrome, but still continues to deny it is a war-linked illness. Compensation still is denied to 75 percent of veterans filing claims. That policy was inaugurated by then-President George Bush, Sr.

Congress authorized some compensation by the Veterans Administration, but little has been paid.

The new bill is supported by most major veterans organizations. It establishes guidelines by which the VA must recognize victims of the illness and compensate them for their service-connected ailments.

In order to qualify, a veteran must have served in the Gulf War and suffered one or more chronic conditions, such as fatigue, joint pain, headaches, muscle pain, muscular disorder and sleep disturbances.

A similar bill is moving along in the Senate. It had a hearing two weeks ago before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. If each bill clears its respective chamber, they then will go to a conference committee in an effort to produce a compromise bill.

Manzullo blasted the VA’s stonewalling on this issue. “Our soldiers are sick,” he said. “They should not have to go to extreme lengths to prove the cause of their illness. We may never know what caused Gulf War illness.”

U.S. citizens who have had their interests protected by the men and women of our armed services should back this legislation and press for more support and disclosure on the Gulf War Syndrome.

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