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Report Concludes Gulf War Syndrome Is Legitimate Illness

A report released Monday revealed that the mysterious illness affecting veterans exposed to toxins during the 1991 Gulf War is real, making it easier for military personnel to seek federal aid. Research advisory committee chairman James Binns details the findings.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Now, Gulf War illness and its various causes.

    It has been 17 years since the first Gulf War ended. A new report now finds that at least one in four veterans of that conflict have been suffering ever since.

    In 2002, a congressionally mandated panel set out to get to the bottom of conflicting reports about the veterans' health complaints. Its 450-page report concludes that Gulf War illness, memory loss, digestive and neurological problems, fatigue and pain is a real disease.

    More than 175,000 veterans of the war were affected, but not effectively treated.

    The two most likely causes: drugs administered to guard against nerve agents and pesticides used in the battlefield.

    For a closer look at what these findings mean, we turn to James Binns, the chairman of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses.

    Welcome.

    JAMES BINNS, Chair, Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses: Thank you for having me.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So we have heard a lot about illnesses which arose from war, veterans who complained about Agent Orange for years before it was considered to be an actual treatable illness or untreatable illness. What's different about this?

  • JAMES BINNS:

    Well, the Gulf War had its own set of unique exposures. As Vietnam veterans were exposed to Agent Orange, so Gulf War veterans were exposed to a number of toxic exposures that were unique to that war.

    And what this report has been able to do is to separate out which ones were truly causes as opposed to others which turn out not to be.