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Many Gulf vets file for disability

17 February 2002

The Persian Gulf War has been over for more than a decade, but questions about sick veterans linger.

Nearly 199,000 veterans - or more than one in four - who served in the Persian Gulf from August 1990 to July 1991 have filed disability claims, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"It's stunning," says Pat Eddington, author of Gassed in the Gulf: The Inside Story of the Pentagon-CIA Cover-Up of Gulf War Syndrome.

Tens of thousands of Gulf War veterans have complained of illnesses including chronic muscle and joint pain, anxiety, fatigue and memory loss. The ailments have collectively been called Gulf War syndrome.

But researchers have disagreed on the causes and even whether a syndrome exists.

A study published this month in the British Medical Journal suggested that unexplained illnesses experienced by some Gulf War vets are not unique and should be placed in a general context of postcombat syndrome.

But other researchers and veterans groups have blamed nerve gas, pesticides and vaccines for some sicknesses.

The U.S. Department of Defense says there is a higher incidence of illness among Gulf War veterans when compared with military personnel who were not deployed in the region at the same time.

But "putting a label to that or having an explanation - we're not there yet," says Austin Camacho, spokesman for the department's deployment health support directorate.

About $174-million has been spent on nearly 200 studies, but none has found conclusive proof that any illnesses were directly caused by the war, said Jim Benson, a VA spokesman.

The VA recently announced that a preliminary study found Gulf War veterans are nearly twice as likely to develop ALS, known as Lou Gehrig's disease, as other military personnel.

Associated Press report ŠAssociated Press
Published in the St. Petersburg Times © 2001-2002 St. Petersburg Times.

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