According to data released by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), 80% of disability claims filed by Gulf War veterans have been denied, due to “inadequate and insufficient evidence” to show their disabilities are service-related.
Of the 54,193 claims filed by veterans for Gulf War-related disabilities, only 11,216 were considered service-related. Although about half of veterans who were denied compensation for Gulf War-related disabilities are receiving compensation for other service-related conditions, this approximately 80% denial rate presents a troubling issue for veterans suffering from very real illnesses.
What’s more, news of this denial rate comes with the VA’s recent rejection of a request by members of Congress and veterans advocates to make brain cancer, lung cancer and migraines “presumptive conditions” for Gulf War veterans. If they were classified as presumptive conditions, the VA would presume that the conditions had been caused by their military service. Gulf War veterans suffering from these conditions would be entitled to medical and disability benefits.
For a veteran to receive disability benefits and medical care through the VA, his or her condition must be service-related . With other medical conditions not classified as presumptive, veterans may have to provide evidence that shows their illness or injury was sustained in the line of duty. Classifying certain diseases, injuries or illnesses as presumptive would serve to streamline the process of receiving benefits and medical care for eligible Gulf War veterans, something that could make a difference in whether a veteran receives life-saving treatment in a timely manner, particularly when aggressive diseases like brain and lung cancer are involved.
Unfortunately, the VA rejected the proposed association between lung cancer, brain cancer and migraines to Gulf War service. According to VA officials, the number of brain cancer deaths among troops exposed to sarin gas during the Gulf War was too low to provide conclusive evidence of its link to cancer, though a 2007 study by the Institute of Medicine published in the American Journal of Public Health showed a brain cancer fatality rate in service members in the sarin-gas exposure zone that was twice that for service members who were not exposed.
The VA rejected the proposal in spite of another study showed the rate of lung cancer deaths among veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War was 15% higher than those who did not serve during this time, VA officials considered the results “inconclusive” because researchers did not have information regarding how many service members were smokers.
Other medical conditions are considered presumptive in Gulf War veterans, including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome. Adding lung cancer, brain cancer and migraines would have been a major victory for veterans suffering from these potentially deadly and certainly debilitating conditions.
Regardless of when and where you served, you may be entitled to disability benefits for any service-related illness. At George Sink, P.A. Injury Lawyers, we are committed to helping veterans across South Carolina and the entire U.S. obtain the benefits they deserve. Led by a former Marine who served in Vietnam, our team is fully prepared to fight for veterans with the vigor and attention to detail that is necessary to meet with success in these often complex claims.