On Monday, August 15, 2011 the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) implemented a new rule with broad, positive implications for the functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders (FGIMDs) community. This rule states that there is a “presumptive service connection” for veterans affected by functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorders who served in Southwest Asia during the Persian Gulf War.
This federal policy decision means that if a veteran deployed during the Persian Gulf War now suffers with a functional GI disorder, it is presumed that they developed the condition as a result of their military service for the purposes of assessing disability benefits. You can read the rule in the Federal Register here.
Functional GI disorders disproportionately impact veterans and active duty military personnel. Deployed soldiers face a heightened chance of developing a functional GI disorder due to their exposure to certain risk factors, such as infections of the GI tract and severe stress. This link is well documented in medical literature, including 2 pivotal National Academy of Sciences reports on health effects of serving in the Gulf War, which were critical in supporting the VA’s final rule.
For many years, IFFGD has been working with lawmakers and government officials to see that meaningful steps are taken to improve care and bolster research for our FGIMDs-affected veterans and active duty military personnel. VA’s recent action is a key indicator of how community advocacy and grassroots efforts to raise awareness of FGIMDs have been successful in legitimizing the seriousness of these conditions.
We remain concerned, however, that while veterans with functional GI disorders now have improved access to care and benefits, effective treatment options remain limited. This leads to a situation where veterans may be disabled by a functional GI disorder, but lack treatment options that could return them to a productive lifestyle. This treatment gap needs to be addressed, and one important way to address it is through new research led by the Department of Defense (DOD).
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