Aug 15, 2010 8:47 PM by Matt Stafford

20 years after Op. Desert Shield began, V.A. is looking into illnesses

Nearly 700,000 men and women served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the Gulf War. The Department of Veterans Affairs says nearly a quarter of them suffer from symptoms related to what they call the Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses.  Veterans have experienced chronic symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, gastrointestinal problems, cognitive dysfunction, sleep disturbances, persistent headaches, skin rashes, respiratory conditions and mood changes.

Money designated for research is being set aside by the V.A.

With August marking 20 years since the beginning of Desert Shield, it's easy for some to think the V.A. should have commissioned the studies sooner. However, the two vets who served in the Gulf War conflicts tell News First 5, its better late than never.

American troops began heading to Saudi Arabia 20 years ago this August for Operation Desert Shield.

"It seems like it was just the other day," Cliff Martin, a retired Navy Veteran who was part of the first wave of Sailors and Marines to the Persian Gulf.

Since then, he and other have reminders of that time every day.

Martin has had a sleep disorder. A co-worker of Martin's, retired Air Force and Gulf War Veteran Anthony McCloskey, has had several problems. All of their issues fall under the Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses that Veterans Affairs is paying to 2.8 million dollars to research.

"They had no idea of the long term effects that that they're going to have on Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines," Martin says. "They're still discovering it." Both Martin and McCloskey have a lot of friends who served at the same time dealing with similar things.

"Either the same symptoms or a lot more severe symptoms," says McCloskey.

Both also say they've had trouble getting claims through with the V.A. in the past.

"I though maybe they had forgotten about us for a long time," says McCloskey.

"There's a log jam right now with everyone filing for disability," Martin adds.

With current military operations overseas, expectations are that case load for the V.A. will increase. That concerns veterans like Martin and McCloskey, they've been seeking help for problems they've had for years.

Acknowledgement that the V.A. plans to help is good news for them.

"It's still a long ways off but it's getting there," explains McCloskey.

"They're a little late," says Martin, "but you know what it's better late than never."

Even if it's overdue, the possible progress keeps them optimistic.

The first $700,000 dollars in research money begins getting used October 1st.


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