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Gulf War Veterans to Benefit

6 July 1999

Media Release

The Hon.Bruce Scott, MP

Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence

Minister for Veterans' Affairs

Gulf War Veterans to Benefit from New Defence Health Strategy

Australian veterans of the Gulf War will be the first to benefit from a new Defence Force strategy to better treat the health of service personnel involved in recent and future overseas deployments.

Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, Bruce Scott, today announced a series of initiatives providing early access to health treatment for returned service personnel with acute undiagnosable conditions and health reviews based on comprehensive nominal rolls of deployment participants.

"This will ensure that veterans of Australia's participation in overseas deployments would receive full recognition and the very best of care on their return", Mr Scott said.

Mr Scott said that for Gulf War veterans, this would provide early treatment for all those suffering from acute ill health with difficult to diagnose symptoms.

"In addition, those suffering from readily diagnosable service-related medical conditions will continue to have access to compensation and treatment", Mr Scott said.

"Already, 140 Gulf War veterans have successfully claimed for assistance from both the Departments of Defence or Veterans' Affairs."

The Minister said funding is provided in the 1999 Federal Budget for the development of a nominal roll of Gulf War veterans.

Based on this roll, a health review would be carried out with involvement from the veteran community and Australian experts drawing on overseas experience.

The Minister also said that the current work of the Departments of Defence and Veterans' Affairs in collating the disabilities would be a foundation for the study.

"Where known, information on actual or likely exposures to possible causal agents would be factored into the study."

"Data and research on vaccinations and medications given to deployed personnel, such as anthrax vaccine and pyridostigmine bromide, would also be examined," Mr Scott said.

"ADF personnel involved in overseas deployments are potentially exposed to a range of operational, environmental and occupational threats different to those involved in peacetime service in Australia", Mr Scott said. "While there is no consensus amongst scientific experts as to the existence of a so-called Gulf War Syndrome, the results of the health review of Australian Gulf War veterans will assist the research now under way in Australia and overseas."

Key elements in the new health strategy for overseas deployments are:

establishment of a Medical Advisory Panel between Defence and Veterans' Affairs to advise on treatment and policy relating to both deployment and post deployment issues;

extension of specified health cover for acute undiagnosed illness to particular groups of veterans, through amendments to the Veterans' Entitlements Act now before Parliament. These provisions will be available for all our recent and future overseas deployment veterans for a period of up to 15 years, consistent with the circumstances of each deployment, following their return;

compilation of the nominal rolls for all significant overseas deployments over the past decade;

health reviews for all future overseas deployments; earlier and closer co-operation between Defence and Veterans' Affairs on health threats and precautions involved in given deployments; better support to defence personnel as they make the transition from serving member to veteran status;

improved information to veterans on research into health issues relating to particular deployments, including closer liaison with ex-service organisations;

use of the nominal rolls to monitor the collective health of specific groups of deployed personnel;

co-operation with overseas authorities and research agencies on deployment health research and analysis;

continued use of the Repatriation Medical Authority to investigate research concerning overseas deployments.

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