Bill Would Pay Veterans ‘Persian Gulf Syndrome’ Compensation
MOBILE, Ala. (AP) _ Dale Glover is afraid his next blackout will happen when he’s behind the wheel.
″I blacked out day before yesterday in the middle of watching my little girl play ball. The blackout lasts about a minute, tops, but it seems like eternity,″ said the 31-year-old Army veteran and Baptist youth minister.
On Thursday, he and other veterans welcomed the Clinton administration’s endorsement of a bill to compensate victims of the mysterious ″Persian Gulf Syndrome.″ It would pay military personnel $87 to $1,770 a month, depending of the extent of their disabilities.
″I’m glad it didn’t take 20 years like with Agent Orange,″ Glover said, referring to the defoliant used during the Vietnam War.
More than 20,000 veterans, including several hundred in Alabama, have illnesses they blame on the Gulf War. Symptoms include blackouts, joint pain, rashes, weight loss, chronic fatigue, headaches and memory loss.
Various origins have been suggested, including Iraqi biological and chemical agents, toxic fumes from oil fires, parasites and anti-anthrax vaccines, but no single cause has been determined.
As a result, veterans have had difficulty obtaining treatment at veterans hospitals and receiving compensation for service-related disabilities.
″This legislation is revolutionary. We have never before provided payment for something we’re not even certain exists,″ Veterans Affairs Secretary Jesse Brown said in testimony before a House Veterans’ Affairs panel Thursday.
Brown went further than the bill introduced by Rep. G.V. ″Sonny″ Montgomery, D-Miss., saying a provision requiring veterans to show symptoms within one year of leaving the Gulf is too restrictive.
The effort to extend benefits comes more than three years after the United States and its allies defeated Iraq.
″I feel there should be some compensation. These people went out and did the job. You expect bullets, and explosions, but you don’t expect to bring it home with you,″ said former Army Sgt. Bob Wages of Phenix City. He said he suffers headaches, memory loss and other ailments.
″Everybody wants a quick cure,″ said Wages, who received a medical discharge from the Army for a back problem unrelated to the war.
Jill Ashford of Smiths Station said her husband, Sgt. Calvin Ashford, 45, had to give up his job as a mechanic because of skin rashes and joint pain. The couple have three children and Ashford now works only four hours a day as a janitor at a junior high school.
″The family is under a lot of stress from all of this,″ Mrs. Ashford said.
Ashford, who has been to the emergency room twice and was hospitalized last September, is at summer camp for reservists, where his duties have been reduced to answering the phone, his wife said.
Wages left the Army a staff sergeant earning $1,600 to $1,700 a month and now works part time as a security guard. He’s under a doctor’s care at a Tuskegee veterans hospital.
Glover, a father of two daughters, ages 18 months and 4, said he has received treatment at the VA hospital in Tuscaloosa, and he’s lucky not to have lost his job.