House lawmakers ask VA for presumptive conditions for Gulf War vets

By KELLY KENNEDY | USA TODAY | Published: March 19, 2014

WASHINGTON — Gulf War veterans should have presumptive conditions associated with their service, including brain and lung cancer and chronic migraines, members of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs wrote in a letter Tuesday.

"As a veteran of the Persian Gulf war, I am keenly aware of issues adversely impacting the health of veterans who served in that theater beginning in 1990," wrote Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., in a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

If a veteran is diagnosed with a presumptive condition, Veterans Affairs is required to assume that it is military-connected, and that the veteran is then entitled to medical or disability benefits associated with the diagnosis.

Coffman writes that research has connected brain cancer to the Sarin gas that troops were exposed to when the U.S. Air Force bombed a chemical factory in Khamisiyah, Iraq. Gulf War veterans have been found to have a higher percentage of lung cancer, and migraines are more likely in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, he wrote. If VA decides not to make the conditions presumptive, Coffman wrote, they should explain why.

Ron Brown, president of the National Gulf War Resource Center, said he had worked with other veterans' organizations, including the American Legion, to try to get the presumptive conditions approved by VA.

"This legislation is long overdue with the science and research that has been done to show these conditions warrant being presumptive for Desert Storm service," Brown said.

Gulf War veterans already have presumptive status for chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal disorders, and undiagnosed illnesses that include weight loss, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, headache, menstrual disorders, neurological and psychological problems, skin conditions, respiratory disorders and sleep disturbances, according to VA.

A U.S. Marine taking part in a chemical decontamination exercise in the weeks before the Gulf War gets some relief from the heat of his protective gear in the Saudi Arabian desert in November 1990.


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