March 8, 1997

More Time for Gulf War Claims


WASHINGTON -- President Clinton said Friday that he would extend to the end of 2001 the deadline for Persian Gulf War veterans to file claims for ailments that might be traced to their service in that conflict.

"Gulf War veterans who became ill as a result of their service should receive the compensation they deserve," Clinton told a news conference, "even if science cannot yet pinpoint the cause of their illnesses."

Jesse Brown, the secretary of veterans affairs, said in an interview that the change could affect as many as 5,000 veterans whose claims have been disallowed.

Under current regulations, veterans with undiagnosed illnesses must demonstrate that their disabilities emerged within two years of their return from the gulf in order to be eligible for benefits.

"We want to be responsible to our citizen soldiers," he said, "and our records show that we allowed approximately 5,000 veterans to fall through the cracks because their symptoms did not show up until more than two years after they left the gulf."

The new regulations will deal with a main issue involving Gulf War syndrome: whether and how veterans get compensated for ailments that may be associated with their service. They do not address the argument about whether there is such a thing as a discrete Gulf War syndrome and whether the Pentagon mishandled early signs that service in the gulf was producing peculiar illnesses.

Copyright 1997 The New York Times Company

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