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UK Soldier wins Gulf War Syndrome case, despite not fighting there

Friday, November 3, 2006

(AFP) A former British soldier has won the right to claim a war pension on the basis of having Gulf War Syndrome, even though he never fought in the conflict, the Ministry of Defence said.

Alex Izett, a former lance corporal in the Royal Engineers, won a case at the War Pensions Tribunal in Manchester, northwest England, in 2003 attesting that his ailments developed after vaccinations he received in 1991.

That ruling allowed him to to receive a pension for individual conditions such as the brittle bone disease osteoporosis that developed after army medics innoculated him against chemical and biological agents.

But Izett -- who was on stand-by as a battlefield casualty replacement in Osnabrueck, Germany but was eventually never required -- pushed for "Gulf War Syndrome" to be given as a cause of his illnesses.

The same tribunal allowed the term to be used at a hearing on September 27 this year, an MoD spokesman told AFP.

Maria Rusling, from the National Gulf War Veterans and Families Association, told AFP: "He is the first non-deployed veteran to win the right to use the umbrella term 'Gulf War Syndrome'.

"That's significant because people just think they (sufferers) had to have been in the theatre of war. It says that the cause of his Gulf War Syndrome was the vaccinations."

Previous cases where the term has been used for ill Gulf War veterans involved members of Britain's armed forces who actually saw service in the 1991 military action against Iraq's invasion of neighbouring Kuwait.

The same tribunal first allowed a former British soldier to use the term for his illnesses in a landmark ruling on November 1, 2005, paving the way for similar cases.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed Thursday that Izett had been allowed to use the term on his claim, with a spokesman describing the tribunal's decision as "not unexpected".

But he said research on vaccinated and non-vaccinated employees at the government's defence, science and technology laboratory at Porton Down, southwest England, suggested there was "no discernible difference" in health.

The MoD has rejected the existence of Gulf War Syndrome for 14 years. Some progress was made in September last year when for the first time they allowed the use of the expression as a "general term" but not as a "medical term". AFP