On October 24, 2014, Glenn Stewart, an Army Desert Storm veteran, went to the emergency room at his local VA hospital to treat his third episode of temporary blindness.
“It was like a smear,” he said. “It was like a smear on a microscope slide, and eventually occupied a fourth of my field of vision. After fifteen minutes, it went away.”
Stewart had had another episode of temporary blindness just ten days earlier. He went into a Gulf War Illness chat group, looking for someone who might have experienced the same thing before, worried he might be facing a stroke., The VA medical center did blood tests and an FMRI, all of which came back inconclusive.
“The doctor told me there was no such thing as Gulf War Illness,” Glenn said. He instead offered Glenn a psychological evaluation.
“Making a statement like that is ignorance,” Glenn said. “There is a lot of research and lots of studies done on it.
“I wanted to slap him.”
Stewart is right; there is a lot of research supporting the existence of what he and many other Gulf war vets experience on a daily basis, 25 years after their war ended. They suffer without any acknowledgement from the government agency meant to take care of them., “What I saw [at VA] was both embarrassing and astonishing. I couldn’t stay any longer,” Coughlin told the Daily Beast.
By 2014, the situation still hadn’t changed. Gulf War veterans already have presumptive status for a number of conditions, but the VA denied 80 percent of Gulf War Illness compensation claims, citing “inadequate and insufficient evidence” to indicate that the cancers and migraines they suffer from are service-related.
“There is no consistent evidence of a higher overall incidence of cancer in veterans who were deployed to the Gulf War than in non-deployed veterans,” Robert Jesse, then the VA’s acting undersecretary for health, wrote in a letter Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman, who requested information on adding the increased incidence of brain cancer, lung cancer, and migraines in Gulf War veterans to the VA’s list of presumptive conditions.
Ron Brown, president of the National Gulf War Resource Center, told USA Today that the VA’s research contradicts the Institute of Medicine’s findings.
“What they’ve done is used the overall population of deployed veterans during Desert Storm,” he said. “If you use the whole population, it does not show an increase of cancers, but if you look at Khamisiyah, there are significant increases of cancers.”
Khamisiyah is the site of a munitions industrial center in Iraq, where demolition of conventional and chemical munitions just after the end of the 1991 Gulf War exposed as many as 100,000 service members to Sarin nerve gas. For those near Khamisiyah, the rate of brain cancer was was more than twice as high as unexposed veterans.,
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