The state Veterans Secretary, legislators, experts and veterans observe the third Gulf War Illness Recognition Day.
Many Wisconsin soldiers — about 10,400 — served in the Persian Gulf War 17 years ago. Anthony Hardie , Executive Assistant with the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, says about 1/4th of all Gulf War veterans nationwide are on VA disability rules.
"Certainly not all Gulf War veterans have health issues. Some reported some health issues early on and they improved, others reported health issues early on and they got worse. Today more than 200,000 of the 700,000 Gulf War veterans have an approved claim for service connected disability compensation from the VA. That's a very large number."
Advocates fought for 15 years to get proper medical care in an environment where skeptics blew off the legitimacy of the symptoms. Hardie says, now, a number of studies prove the existence of Gulf War Illness.
"Epidemiology studies found that deployed Gulf War veterans were more than twice as likely to be ill and to be more seriously ill and to have more symptoms than their non-deployed Gulf War-era counterparts."
Hardie says the Gulf War was a "veritable toxic soup of hazardous exposures." Symptoms include headaches, fatigue, muscle pain, gastrointestinal issues, to name a few. Other states governors have issued one time proclamations to recognize Gulf War Illness, but Hardie believes Wisconsin is the only state in the nation to specifically recognize Gulf War Illness in its state statutes.