The 1991 Persian Gulf War was the first post-cold war international crisis to curb the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. However, this war left physical and mental scars on Gulf War veterans, referred to as the Gulf War Syndrome (GWS). The veterans exhibited a cluster of medically unexplained symptoms, among our time’s most significant veteran mysteries. The Persian Gulf War Syndrome Compensation Act of 1999 offers financial assistance to gulf war veterans with GWS. Read on to learn four FAQs about GWS.
How Many Veterans Have Gulf War Syndrome?
A 2020 Department of Defense Report affirms that a third of troops –175,000 to 250,000 veterans deployed in the Gulf War have GWS. Army and Marine Corps veterans were more likely to report PGWS than those in the Navy and Air Force. Notably, GWS also affected veterans from other countries in the coalition forces.
What are the Causes and Symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome?
The causes of PGWS have been unknown for decades, puzzling medical researchers and veterans. The Federal government has made significant efforts to hack into the causes of the troubling syndrome.
Numerous potential causes have been outlined, including chemical warfare agents and psychological factors. Psychiatric disorders such as PTSD have been linked to the syndrome. Similarly, some researchers have proposed chemical agents from toxic smoke in burn pits, pesticides, and depleted uranium as potential causes.
Recently, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School researchers made a fantastic discovery. They revealed that GWS emanated from sarin exposure released when American troops bombed Iraq’s chemical weapons and production units. Sarin exposure at low levels leads to long-term neurological impairment, while high exposure is lethal.
The symptoms of PGWS include headaches, memory lapses, joint pain, fatigue, muscle pain, insomnia, and respiratory disorders. The symptoms vary from one veteran to another, and the VA refers to them as chronic multisymptom illnesses.
Some veterans report chronic fatigue syndrome characterized by severe fatigue unrelated to other health conditions and not relieved by rest. Others get fibromyalgia and undiagnosed illnesses with symptoms of menstrual disorders, cardiovascular disease, abnormal weight loss, skin conditions, and neurological and psychological problems. Functional gastrointestinal disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome, are prevalent.
What is the Treatment for Gulf War Syndrome?
Currently, there’s no specific treatment for GWS. Nonetheless, medics take a cognitive-behavioral approach to the syndrome, treating the veterans’ symptoms and thus enhancing their health and lives. Research on GWS is ongoing, hoping to get accurate tests and effective treatment options.
What Benefits Does VA Offer Gulf War Veterans?
Eligible Gulf War veterans and their dependents are eligible for various VA benefits and compensation. First, they qualify for the Gulf War Registry Health Exam to identify potential long-term health conditions associated with the Gulf War service. Second, they are eligible for the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, allowing them to document health concerns.
Third, gulf war veterans also qualify for disability compensation if they sustain a service-connected disability. Those that experience medically unexplainable illnesses can file for a VA disability claim. Nonetheless, they must attain a 10% disability rating or higher to get benefits. The dependents and survivors of gulf war veterans can get compensation, healthcare, education, and home loan benefits.
While the Persian Gulf War was a significant milestone for the US, it left adverse health effects for veterans, haunting them more than three decades later. Gulf War veterans report psychiatric and somatic symptoms affecting their quality of life and welfare substantially. With VA disability compensation, veterans and their dependents may get gulf war syndrome benefits to ease their years of suffering.