Steven Williams retired from the Navy in 1994, after serving aboard the USS Eisenhower in both Desert Storm and Desert Shield.
Twenty years later, he is still fighting for disability benefits from the VA, for illnesses he says are connected to Gulf War Syndrome.
“They told me I was exposed to various toxic gases from oil burning, also Sarin gases,” said Williams.
Now the VA is making it even harder for vets like Williams to file disability claims, denying automatic approvals for those with brain cancer, lung cancer, and migraines.
Several congressmen asked for the three illnesses to be added to the Gulf War “presumptive illness” list.
They even cited VA studies, which show veterans exposed to Sarin gas get brain cancer at twice the rate of those not exposed.
Lung cancer death rates among Gulf War vets are also 15% higher than other vets.
“Congress would not ask to make them presumptive illnesses connected to the war unless they had concrete evidence,” said Williams.
Even with those numbers, the VA still said no way.
Those illnesses will not be automatically covered because of what they call “inadequate and insufficient evidence” for an association to Gulf War service.
“I am totally frustrated with the VA,” said Williams. “That many Gulf War people wouldn’t step forward unless they had some sort of ailments.”
Williams, who is also the commander of VFW post 392 in Virginia Beach, says hopefully with time and with enough Gulf War veterans coming forward, this decision will change.
“Let’s take a look at how long it took Vietnam veterans to get their benefits. They had to fight long and hard,” said Williams. “For now, don’t give up, just keep fighting for your benefits.”