VA Extends Benefits for Gulf War Family Members Through 2003

WASHINGTON, May 5, 2000 (GulfLINK) - There's still time for family members of Gulf War veterans to participate in the Veterans Affairs' Persian Gulf Registry medical evaluation program. The VA-funded health examination program established in 1994 for the spouses and children of Gulf War veterans has been extended to Dec. 31, 2003. The law authorizes the VA to continue to provide examinations to the spouse or child of a Gulf War veteran who is experiencing illness and is registered in the VA Persian Gulf Registry medical evaluation program.

"It is critical that family members of Gulf War veterans continue to have access to health care services," said Bernard Rostker, the special assistant for Gulf War illnesses. "I encourage anyone who has concerns about their health and think it may be related to their service during the Gulf War to register in the VA program."

The provision to extend the program was included in the Veterans Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act, Public Law 106-117, signed by President Clinton on Nov. 30, 1999. The law ensures the continuation of vital healthcare services for the nation's veterans into the next century as well as the timeliness and quality of the Veterans Administration health care system. Authority for the program was established by Public Law 103-446. It was first extended by Public Law 104-262 in 1996, and again in 1998 by Public Law 105-368.

To be eligible for participation in the program, an individual must be the spouse or child of a veteran who is listed in the VA's Persian Gulf War Veterans Registry and has - or previously had - an illness or disorder, including a birth defect, miscarriage or stillbirth, that can't be disassociated from the veteran's service in the Southwest Asia theater of operations. Participants must also grant the VA permission to include relevant medical data from the evaluation in the Registry.

As of February, more than 4,000 family members of Gulf War veterans have requested a Persian Gulf Registry examination. To facilitate access to the benefit, the program now allows for individuals to receive the exam through their private physician, once a request has been submitted to the VA's helpline.

Individuals interested in registering for the program should call the VA's toll-free Registry at (800) 749-8387.