DOD'S Persian Gulf Disability Ratings:

Status of Revised Criteria

HEHS-98-71R: Published: Feb 9, 1998. Publicly Released: Feb 9, 1998.

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Stephen P. Backhus
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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the actions taken by the Department of Defense (DOD) in response to the requirements of the 1995 Defense Authorization Act, focusing on whether DOD: (1) developed a case definition for Persian Gulf illnesses; and (2) reviewed the revised criteria for setting disability ratings to determine the potential impact of the revision on those complaining of Persian Gulf-related symptoms.

GAO noted that: (1) DOD has not yet developed a case definition for Persian Gulf illnesses in conjunction with the Secretaries of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services; (2) efforts to date have been hampered by the lack of clear medical or scientific understanding of the multiple symptoms reported by Persian Gulf service members and an absence of specific information on the substances to which service members may have been exposed; (3) DOD has revised the criteria used for rating Persian Gulf illnesses but has not rerated service members who received disability ratings before the revised criteria were issued; (4) according to DOD officials, the primary reason for not rerating cases is that the revised criteria apply only to cases of undiagnosed illnesses, and no Persian Gulf service members were separated from the service as a result of a disabling but undiagnosed condition before the revision; and (5) since the promulgation of the revised criteria, the services have used the undiagnosed illness codes in only five cases.

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