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Forgotten heroes of Gulf War fear cuts in pension.

THE "forgotten heroes" of the Gulf War are facing poverty and illness as they brace themselves for cuts to war pensions and benefits, a charity warned yesterday.

Ministry of Defence (MoD) cutbacks will result in an increase in the number of rejected claims for war disablement pensions, the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association (NGVFA) fears.

Some 20 years after the start of the war, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) still refuses to recognise Gulf War Syndrome as a medical condition, the group said.

Many British veterans give up on claims for pensions and benefits after being "pestered and hounded" to prove they are eligible.

The Government's strategic defence and security review in October outlined defence cuts of at least pounds 4.3bn over four years.

A total of 9,700 British veterans have suffered a range of Gulf War-related problems, including chronic headaches, depression, fatigue and breathing difficulties, the NGVFA said. The group, which helps with around 370 new claims each year, said cuts could lead to more rejections for disablement pension claims, while veterans will also lose out through changes to disability living allowance and incapacity benefit.

NGVFA trustee Shaun Rusling said: "You are told the Government and the MoD will support you, but in reality veterans are hounded and pestered throughout the rest of their lives to constantly keep proving to benefit agencies they are eligible.

"After hearing so many horror stories of Gulf War veterans having claims rejected, which are then awarded after a costly tribunal process, the prospect of the Government coming for all of us as part of their budget cuts is beyond belief."

Mr Rusling, 51, from Hull, a former Parachute Regiment medic who is himself a Gulf veteran, won a ground-breaking ruling in May 2002 when a pensions appeal tribunal officially recognised Gulf War Syndrome as a disease.

An MoD spokeswoman said:"We have long accepted that some veterans of the 1990-1991 Gulf conflict are ill and that some of this ill health may be related to their Gulf service."

Some 4,795 Gulf veterans are in receipt of a war pension and last year pounds 1bn was paid out. Gulf War Syndrome was a "useful umbrella term", the MoD accepts.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 15, 2011
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