NGWRC Statement on VA’s Reopening Gulf War Veterans Claims


Gulf War Veterans question how well the VA’s plan will work at reopening Gulf War Veterans’ claims on Gulf War Illness.

Gulf War Veterans are concerned about how today’s headline, “VA to reopen Gulf War vets’ files”, will impact the VA’s procedures in determining their current and future benefits from the VA.

Jim Bunker, president for the National Gulf War Resource Center (NGWRC), is worried that having the same raters looking over claims they previouslydenied will be a waste of time and money. The VA’s first priority should be fixing the system.

In a letter he sent, on behalf of the NGWRC, to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and Chief of Staff John R. Gingrich, Bunker has asked that there be better training on the entire rating system.

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs needs to set strong and clear policy and directives, that reflect the findings of the Research AdvisoryCommittee (RAC), that will govern how the VA will update its clinician guides and training manuals on Gulf War Illness; and require all persons who treat, or do benefit rating of Gulf War Veterans to take the updated course (mandatory). This training module dedicated to Gulf War Illness should be updated on an ongoing basis and should be made a requirement for all attending VA staff that treat Gulf War Veterans. All references to Gulf War Illness as “psychological” in nature should be eliminated from VA materials and replaced with real data and facts from the latest research and approved by the committee as true research into gulf war illness.

The next step is to add Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and sinus problems to the list of illnesses. The illnesses of Fibromyalgia (FM) and
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) should all be treated and rated as CFS. They both have the same symptoms and it is only a doctor’s opinion that will assign them CFS or FM. The rating for FM is 40% and the rating for CFS is 100%. The tendency is to assign FM to the veteran; however, by law the VA is supposed to give the veterans the higher of the two, but this is not currently occurring.

The Computer system, at check in, also needs to change. Right now a veteran is only allowed to have one medical complaint entered even if he has many. This impacts the rating by showing on the records he did not have any other complaints, thus causing the claim to be denied.

The VA also needs to do a survey of all raters, caregivers, and directors about Gulf War illness to better understand where the problems are. The NGWRC knows from its many years of working this issue that some VA’s are better than others.


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