GULF WAR VETS: Some Die Waiting for VA Assistance
A decade after the Persian Gulf War, "there are the first glimmers of hope that veterans suffering from a variety of ailments," may one day qualify for compensation, but in the meantime, some veterans are dying while waiting for assistance, the AP/Fayetteville Observer reports. Rob Booker, a former Army national guardsman from Evergreen, Ala., has argued that his Lou Gehrig's disease was linked to serving in the Gulf War and has tried for two years to qualify for veteran's compensation. Because Gulf War illnesses are not recognized by the federal government, Booker's benefits were delayed pending an investigation. During that time, a Veterans' Affairs doctor urged Booker and his wife "to get their private physician to change his diagnosis to improve their chances of securing benefits," but the couple declined. "We didn't even bother. No doctor is going to change a diagnosis and set himself up for malpractice," Lynn Booker said. The VA agreed this week to grant Booker benefits, but it was too late. He died in February.
Recently, the VA announced a year long-study to determine whether there is a higher incidence of Lou Gehrig's disease among the 700,000 veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War. If researchers "establish a higher incidence among veterans," their findings could "trigger a presumption that it was service-connected and lead to automatic compensation." Paul Sullivan, spokesperson for the National Gulf War Resources Center, said, "We see [the study] as a solid victory and a very positive move by the VA. It clearly opens the door." Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) assailed the VA for not giving Gulf Veterans the benefit of the doubt: "The worst that could happen is you help someone who needs help" (Margasak, 4/6).