August 2010 marks the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Gulf War, launched with Operation Desert Shield and followed by Operation Desert Storm. VA honors this milestone with a renewed commitment to improving our responsiveness to the challenges facing Gulf War Veterans.
First and foremost, VA is an advocate for Veterans – we are committed to finding innovative solutions to long standing issues and to empowering Veterans and other stakeholders to be a part of the solution.
VA recognizes and values the selfless service and sacrifice of Gulf War Veterans and their families, and continues our efforts to address the unique health needs of Gulf War Veterans.
Today, more than 250,000 Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield Veterans receive disability benefits from VA. VA has treated nearly 150,000 Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield Veterans for illnesses associated with their military service. We vow to reach more of these Veterans and have taken steps to do so. Earlier this year, VA proposed a new rule to make it easier for Gulf War-era Veterans to obtain disability compensation and related health care. This rule, once it takes effect, will grant presumptive service-connection for nine infectious diseases associated with military service in Southwest Asia and Afghanistan.
In addition, VA’s ongoing Gulf War research and Task Force efforts continue to examine multisymptom illnesses, and other conditions associated with service in this conflict. VA continues to participate in Federal research efforts on Gulf War illnesses, contributing more than $158 million of the $406 million in total Federal commitment.
VA is taking bold steps forward in how we consider and address the challenges facing Gulf War Veterans as well as the challenges facing all Veterans. Our commitment to the Nation’s Veterans is unwavering.
As your Secretary and fellow Veteran, I pay tribute to all of you who so bravely served and thank all Gulf War Veterans for their heroic efforts. Our Nation owes you a debt of gratitude. We acknowledge and honor the contributions of your service. Thank you.
–Eric K. Shinseki