VA officials say sarin gas not related to some illnesses of Gulf War veterans

U.S. veterans have been dealt another blow at the hands of the federal agency that controls their benefits and services.

USA TODAY reports that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has rejected a proposed link between certain cancers and service in the Gulf War.

VA officials concluded that the high rates of migraines and brain and lung cancers among Gulf War veterans were not proven to be related to military service.

VA officials said the number of brain cancer deaths for troops exposed to sarin gas was too low to be conclusive, though it was double the rate of troops not exposed.

And the rate of lung cancer deaths, though 15% higher than those who did not serve in the 1991 Gulf War, is "inconclusive" because researchers did not know how many of the service members smoke.

Veterans become eligible for medical or disability benefits if the illness or diagnosis has been deemed a presumptive condition for that veteran’s era, in this case, the Gulf War.

U.S. Rep. Timothy Walz, D-Minn., and U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., asked the VA in March to review three studies that they believed could establish the cancers and migraines as presumptive conditions.

The VA replied that it was “inadequate and insufficient evidence.”

"I'm disappointed with their decision, but hold out hope that further studies will convince the VA," Rep. Timothy Walz, D-Minn., told USA TODAY. "We must ensure our brave veterans get the care they need, and this is part of that effort."

There are a number of presumptive conditions for Gulf War veterans, like chronic fatigue syndrome and gastrointestinal disorders. However, it appears that there is a pattern of this group’s ailments not being recognized by the VA.

Data recently released by the VA show that 80% of disability claims filed by Gulf War veterans for conditions related to the war were denied.

PublicSource reported in September 2012 that veterans of the Gulf War, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, cite five to six illnesses per claim.

Reach Halle Stockton at 412-315-0263 or hstockton@publicsource.org.