Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, announced September 29, 2010 that Gulf war, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, active duty members and veterans will now have an easier time receiving health care benefits and disability compensation for service-related diseases.
Prior to the new regulation, veterans were required to prove that diseases such as Brucellosis, Campylobacter jejuni, Coxiella Burnetti (Q fever), Malaria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Nontyphoid Salmonella, Shingella, Visceral leishmaniasis, and West Nile virus were service related. Under the new rule, veterans are now only required to prove their service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan during specified periods of time to receive the proper health care benefits and disability compensation.
“This part of historic changes in how VA considers Gulf War veterans’ illnesses,” Shinseki stated. “By setting up scientifically based presumptions of service connection, we give these deserving veterans a simple way to obtain the benefits their earned in service to our country.”
According to the VA’s chief of staff, John Gingrich, the new regulation will affect nearly 2,000 veterans who have been diagnosed and are awaiting proper benefits and compensation. The number is expected to increase after further diagnosis are made.
Gingrich, who is also a Gulf war veteran, witnessed first hand the harmful effects of diseases contracted while on duty as on of his own officers fell ill while under his command, and expressed great gratitude for Shinseki’s decision. “When we find these presumptions and we reach out and get the veterans into our system,” stated Gingrich, “we can help them and give them the proper medical care they need, and maybe keep their disease from getting worse or getting it to go away all together.”
The new regulation will not only make applying for benefits and receiving compensation easier for Gulf War veterans, but it will also reduce the paper work involved. The reduction in paperwork will allow veterans to receive their benefits more quickly, and will also aid in the efforts to decrease the VA claims backlog whose large volume of in-progress claims came under fire earlier this year.
“Veterans deserve better,” stated Gingrich. “I believe that our veterans that served in uniform for our country deserve the absolute best care and benefits that we can provide.” He also acknowledged that the new regulation were an effective part of Shinseki’s effort to “create a culture of advocacy” within the VA.
Shinseki sought to change the prior regulation to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Gulf War believing that it was about time to improve health care access and benefits for the 697,000 veterans who fought in the war.
Photo thanks to LesterPublicLibrary under creative common license on Flickr.