THE POLITICS OF WAR - The so-called presumptive period for established diseases and illnesses for Gulf War veterans and those still fighting in the Gulf will expire on December 11this year unless an initiative is enacted to either repeal the date or extend it.
Title 38 CFR 3.317 states in pertinent part, “The VA will pay compensation in accordance with chapter 11 of title 38, United States Code, to a Persian Gulf veteran who exhibits objective indications of a qualifying chronic disability, provided that such disability:
“Became manifest either during active military, naval, or air service in the Southwest Asia Theater of operations during the Persian Gulf War, or to a degree of 10 percent or more not later than December 31, 2011.”
It was just March 18, 2010 that General Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs added nine diseases to the presumptive list and, most recently, another disease in August 2011.
More than 697,000 Americans participated in Operations Desert Shield/ Desert Storm that began in 1990. Research shows that one in four of those veterans were afflicted with chronic illnesses that are related to their overseas deployment.
James A. Bunker, Executive Director National Gulf War Resource Center (NGWRC), noted in his letter, of April 1, to VA Dept of Affairs Chief of Staff, John R. Gingrich: “There are many sound and just reasons why the December 2011 expiration date should be repealed- among them:
“A) The United States still has troops deployed in the Gulf Region that are returning with the same illnesses.
“B) The Department of Veterans Affairs Committee on Gulf War Illness has testified before Congress that the end date should be repealed.
“C) As was stated in the Federal Registry (document number E-723545, pages 68506-68508), the reason for the last presumptive period extension by the Secretary was because "scientific uncertainty remains regarding the causes of Gulf War veterans' illnesses." At this point it is very safe to say that "scientific uncertainty" still remains regarding Gulf War Illnesses.”
Bunker said, “The end date should be removed from the law as Gulf War veterans are the only group of war veterans who face a deadline like this. POW’s have a long list of illnesses that can show up any time in their life and be service connected. Vietnam veterans have a long list that is still growing and they do not face any end date like the veterans who served in the Gulf are facing.”
Science has no known reasons for illnesses and diseases, no cures or preventive measures in place and the expiration date will effectively close the door to benefits for all veterans of the Gulf Region.
Reports have already shown there were more than 29 toxic chemicals in the Gulf, and any combination of those chemicals could be the cause(s) of veteran’s medical problems. Veterans who suffer from traumatic brain injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) will also be left without benefits, while those who served in previous wars and developed the same conditions will receive benefits.
Based on a response to his letter from Gingrich on May 16, 2011, Bunker believes the expiration date will, in all likelihood, be extended once again as it was four times in past years.
Bunker says veterans want this date repealed, just as the expiration date for Agent Orange was repealed two decades ago.
(Katharine Russ is an investigative reporter. She is a regular contributor to CityWatch and to the North Valley Reporter. Katharine Russ can be reached at: [email protected] ) –cw
Tags: presumptive period, Gulf War, veterans, General Eric Shinseki, Veterans Affairs, Gulf War illnesses
Vol 9 Issue 72
Pub: Sept 9, 2011