17:46 GMT15 August 2020
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    The US Veterans Affairs (VA) Department remains deficient in processing Gulf War Illness (GWI) claims due to lack of training and complexities involved in diagnosis, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report on Monday.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — During fiscal years 2010 through 2015, approval rates for GWI claims were three times lower than for all other claimed disabilities. The VA completed processing about 11,400 GWI claims in fiscal year 2015, which was more than double the 4,800 claims processed in fiscal year 2010, the GAO said.

    "VA's ability to accurately process GWI claims is hampered by inadequate training, and its decision letters for denied claims do not communicate key information to veterans," the report stated.

    "VA medical examiners told GAO that conducting Gulf War general medical exams is challenging because of the range of symptoms that could qualify as GWI. VA has developed elective GWI training for its medical examiners, but only 10 percent of examiners had taken the training as of February 2017," the release stated.

    VA advisory groups noted, however, that researchers face obstacles in conducting GWI research, including the lack of a single case definition of the illness for research and treatment purposes.

    "Symptoms of GWI can include joint pain, gastrointestinal problems, fatigue, and neurological problems. On average, GWI claims have twice as many medical issues per claim as other disability claims, and take 4 months longer to complete," the report said.

    GAO recommended that the VA require GWI training for medical examiners and develop a plan to establish a single GWI case definition.

    The VA estimates that 44 percent of veterans who served in the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91 have medical issues commonly referred to as GWI and that those who have been deployed to Southwest Asia since then may suffer from similar medical issues, the report noted.

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    Tags:
    Gulf War, medical trainers, United States
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