What are Gulf War Symptoms?

Although it began more than a quarter century ago, and there have been far more memorable and longer-lasting Middle Eastern wars, the Persian Gulf War of the early 1990s looms large in our memories. The military conflict that was also known as “Operation Desert Storm” first brought Iraq and Saadam Hussein to America’s attention. While the “Gulf War” was short-lived (August 1990- February 1991), it created consequences that many of its veterans are still living with.
While the war is considered a victory for American forces and its coalition partners, due to the liberation of ally Kuwait and trade access in that part of the world, many of its veterans continue to suffer from one of the legacies from that war. They are victims of Gulf War Syndrome.
What Exactly Is Gulf War Syndrome?

Although it got off to a rocky and seemingly doomed start, the Gulf War at the time was considered a “good war” due to its brevity, the military successes of the war coalition partners, and the comparatively small amount of casualties. But while the loss of life was relatively low, it didn’t take long to discover another type of Gulf War casualty. A disproportionate (two to twenty percent) number of all returning American veterans were reporting medical conditions which included:

  • Skin conditions
  • Arthritis and other joint problems
  • Gastro-intestinal tract (GI) issues
  • Respiratory system problems
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Chronic multi-symptom illnesses

It’s also been suggested that a disproportionate number of children were born to Gulf War veterans with birth defects, although studies have not been able to prove a direct ink between these defects and the Persian Gulf service of parents.

In addition to these full-fledged medical conditions that appeared in the aftermath of their Gulf War service, a number of service persons began suffering from medical symptoms with unclear underlying medical conditions. Between twelve and thirty percent of all returning veterans were afflicted with these Gulf War symptoms, which included:

  • Fatigue
  • Chronic headaches
  • Memory issues
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dyspepsia and indigestion
  • Neurological issues
  • Terminal tumors

These conditions and symptoms weren’t just an “American problem”. All of the Gulf War coalition troops reported service persons suffering from identical conditions and symptoms. Since their military service was the only thing that all of these victims had in common, the phrase “Gulf War Illnesses” was quickly coined to describe their medical situations. Another unfortunate commonality shared by all of these veterans? These symptoms and conditions persisted off and on for decades, and often led to yet more medical conditions.

What Is Responsible For Gulf War Syndrome?
While the physical, emotional, and mental stresses of war can produce all of the medical situations described above, experts eventually determined that the causes were most likely caused by medicines and vaccines ironically intended to protect troops. Additional causes identified by investigation were troop and civilian contractor exposure to spent uranium ammunition stores, pesticides, and sarin nerve gas. Proximity to burning oil wells, once believed to be a primary cause, was ultimately ruled out.

What Are The Treatment Options For Gulf War Syndrome?
Treatment for Gulf War Syndrome is very much symptom-specific, due to the wide range of maladies associated with it. The effectiveness of treatment and length of relief can vary widely among sufferers, and many are often forced to manage their conditions. Cognitive behavior therapy has shown some effectiveness across symptoms as a form of treatment, as have selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors or serotonin-specific re uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are types of anti-anxiety and anti-depressive medications.

The Department Of Veterans Affairs Position on Gulf War Syndrome
When soldiers from various nations return from a common conflict suffering from identical symptoms, it would seem that it would be a “slam dunk” in identifying the cause as a disease, opening the door to veterans being able to receive medical treatment and financial compensation. However, the VA has been resistant to accept Gulf War Syndrome as a true medical condition, insisting for years that Gulf War symptoms were stress related, and working to inhibit research that indicated that they had biological (and caused by the military) causes. Finally, in 2010, a study conducted by the Institute Of Medicine (IOM) concluded that while Gulf War veterans certainly may have been under stress while deployed, it appeared that Gulf War symptoms had biological origins.

Benefits For Gulf War Syndrome Sufferers
In the face of the IOM’s and other research, and increasing pressure from Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed to allow veterans and military civilians suffering from symptoms to receive V.A benefits. These benefits consist of medical treatment and financial compensation. However, in order to receive these benefits, certain criteria must be met. This criteria includes:

  • Service records and other evidence indicating victims were deployed to specific theaters within specific time frames.
  • If symptoms did not manifest until after completion of duty, victims must prove that symptoms began within a certain time frame.
  • Victim must be suffering from specific diagnosed symptom and/or conditions.
  • Victim must be suffering from specific diagnosed gastro-intestinal conditions.
  • If victim has never received medical treatment for symptoms, than victim must be able to produce “lay evidence” to indicate medical conditions.

How A Personal Attorney Can Help
If case-building following that criteria seems a daunting task for chronically ill people, it is. As a result, thousands of Gulf War veterans and military civilians are not seeking the V.A benefits to which they are entitled, or having applied, have had their claims rejected. A personal injury attorney can help clients here by tracking down service records and collecting evidence of specific deployment areas. Such an attorney can also collect medical records and secure “lay evidence” (statements from former employers, etc.) to be used in filing claims. This lawyer will also track pending claims, attend hearings, and file repeals for rejected claims. As a result, clients will not be burdened with paperwork, experience less delayed and misplaced paperwork, and have an advocate working for them to navigate through legal obstacles. Twenty-five years is far too long to suffer with medical problems as a consequence of military service. If veterans think that they meet the criteria for benefits for Gulf War service, than they should contact such an attorney to receive the assistance that they deserve.

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