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 previously denied 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 Advisory Committee (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 is not.

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.

Veterans far and wide are offering their feedback to VA Directive Letter on Gulf War Veterans Claims below is a sampling of those offerring feedback comments:

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  1. This “training letter” for C and P examiners is not needed. Software is provided for the C and P examiner which inserts the following paragraph in the C and P exam report of every Veteran tested:
    “There is no record of any evidence that the Veterans illness was caused by military service. VA mailroom employees are hereby directed to shred any evidence to the contrary, including this exam, after the denial is made.”
  2. Looks like another long winded way of delaying a claim again. This is just another spin on spin letter more of a cover your own ass, than a help to vets.
  3. I have kept up with everything I could find in the past the VA put out about Gulf war problems and also carefully read the instructions to the ROs about guidelines and I see nothing basically new but I would hope they check all records that Gulf veterans have with the VA and check everyone that has been turned down for medical problems related in the above info the veteran has. I hope this is a turn around but I have my reservations about how they, at the ROs are going to handle it. I still recall the MD at the Milwaukee VAMC, after a long Gulfwar veteran exam, telling me at the conclusion of the exam that she didn ‘t believe any of the stuff about problems with Gulfwar veterans. I brought this up to the Chief of Staff and he told me several days later she denied saying that.
  4. Yeah. My first doctor in Altus, OK..said I needed Spinal surgery but just in case, I needed a second opinion too. So i took my military health records and the MRIs to the RO in OKC. I still remember his quote, “I can’t find the problem. You’re going to have to live with the pain”. Then I went to another surgeon and got Spinal surgery six weeks later.  Can’t remember how many times I have put that incident aside and went there trying to get treated. Maybe it’ll change but in the meantime I get my care somewhere else.

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