Coffman to VA: Recognize Gulf War Illnesses

March 21, 2014
Rep. Mike Coffman, former Gulf War veteran

Rep. Mike Coffman, Gulf War veteran

WASHINGTON — Rep. Mike Coffman called for the federal government to recognize that Gulf-War veterans who have lung and brain cancer as well as migraines received them as a result of their exposure to chemical gases during and after the war.

“As a veteran of the Persian Gulf War, I am keenly aware of issues adversely impacting the health of those who served in that theater beginning in 1990,” the Aurora Republican wrote to Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Eric Shinseki on Tuesday.

Coffman asked that the federal government list brain cancer, lung cancer, and migraines as presumptive conditions for qualified Gulf-War veterans. In his letter, Coffman referred to academic studies that have linked some of the health problems to the U.S. military’s destruction of a massive Iraqi munitions and missile facility in Khamisaiyah in March 1991.

A spokesman for the Veteran’s Affairs Department did not return a call for comment.

The health problems of Gulf-War veterans continue to be a topic of dispute between the federal government and veterans’ groups 23 years after the conflict ended.

Some veterans cite academic studies suggesting that the destruction of the Khamisaiyah facility released sarin gas that caused long-term damage as it moved downwind. In the mid-1990s, a presidential commission concluded that the demolition might not have caused long-term damage to troops.

Coffman attacked and defended positions inside Kuwait for three consecutive days before the U.S.-led coalition forces sought to liberate the country from Iraqi occupation in February 1991, according to his biography listed on his congressional website. As the chairman of a subcommittee on veterans’ affairs, Coffman has investigated the health problems of Gulf-War vets.

The VA lists 14 diseases that have affected veterans, including Parkinson’s disease and multiple myeloma, as associated with their service in a theater of war.

Congress has given the agency $15 million to conduct more research on the effects of Gulf-War related illnesses, but the agency has not spent the money, a congressional aide said.

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