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MoD concedes that Gulf War syndrome does exist
By Michael Evans, Defence Editor
The Times November 01, 2005
BRITISH soldiers who suffered debilitating illnesses after serving in the 1991 Gulf War were victims of a conflict-related syndrome, an appeals tribunal ruled yesterday.
The landmark case involving the former Trooper Daniel Martin, 35, of the Life Guards, who is suffering from asthma, anxiety and memory loss, forced the Ministry of Defence to admit for the first time that the label of “Gulf War syndrome” was justified.
The department’s change of mind, contained in a judgment by the war pensions appeal tribunal in London yesterday, will have far-reaching implications. At least 1,500 other Gulf War veterans will now be able to claim a war pension.
The veterans have blamed the illnesses on the cocktail of vaccines that they were given for protection against chemical and biological warfare. They also suspected that the organophosphate pesticides used to spray their tents to kill desert bugs may have contributed.
The tribunal, in a reserved judgment, was critical of the MoD’s previous refusal to accept the existence of Gulf War syndrome. The panel, which included a consultant psychiatrist and physician, said: “Fourteen years after the end of the Gulf War, the Veterans Agency (part of the MoD) has conceded the validity of the label GWS (Gulf War syndrome).
“In that time many applications for such a condition were rejected, there have been numerous and expensive court cases and there are at present a number of ex-servicemen awaiting the result of this hearing.
“It is not for this tribunal to ascertain why such a late concession was made, but the kindest comment that can be made is that the lateness of this concession was unfortunate.”
Former Trooper Martin, from Luton, said that he had fought for five years for a war pension on the basis that he was suffering from Gulf War syndrome. The MoD rejected his application because he “was determined to stick with that label”. “I am delighted with the result. It will benefit all the other veterans suffering worse illnesses than me,” he said.
Mark McGhee, a lawyer with Linder Myers solicitors, in Manchester, who acted for Mr Martin, said that it was an “historic test case”. Mr Martin served in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq.
Although the tribunal accepted that Gulf War syndrome was “the appropriate medical label”, it said that Mr Martin had failed to produce reliable evidence to satisfy the burden of proof that Gulf War syndrome was “a discrete pathological entity”. Last night the MoD welcomed this finding.