THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PERSIAN GULF VETERAN RECEIVES COMPENSATION
The President met in the Oval Office today with Michael T. Sills of Villa Park, Illinois, one of the first recipients of a compensation check awarded to Persian Gulf veterans under a new law signed by President Clinton in November. The law provides compensation for Gulf veterans with chronic disabilities resulting from undiagnosed illnesses. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown presented the check to Sills, an Air Force veteran, who served in the Air National Guard in the war theater.
"Today, the country takes a long-overdue step to recognize the sacrifices of these Persian Gulf veterans," the President said. "We are taking an unprecedented approach to assisting these veterans by providing compensation for conditions that have defied conventional diagnoses. We encourage any Persian Gulf veteran who is sick to file a claim and we will automatically reopen previously denied claims as a result of this new law."
Approximately 700,000 men and women were deployed to the Gulf in the year following the Dessert Shield mobilization, and more than 364,000 have left active duty and become eligible for certain veterans programs. The prevalence of undiagnosed illnesses among Gulf veterans is uncertain, but an ambitious series of medical research studies is in progress to clarify health effects of Gulf service. DOD, HHS, and VA are working together to develop research initiatives which are designed to provide information that will give veterans the good health and peace of mind they deserve.
"I felt that we could not wait on science. For some Persian Gulf veterans like Michael Sills, medical science does not have answers today," the President said, "but we must not and will not give up."
While federal agencies have responded with medical care, research and now compensation, it is critical that veterans come forward for help. Both VA and DOD are providing specialized examinations of Gulf veterans who have health problems or concerns. In addition, both departments are operating toll-free information centers to answer questions and help veterans find needed health care or other services (VA, 800-PGW-VETS; DOD, 800-796-9699).
"Michael Sills and veterans like him who served their country honorably have earned our gratitude," said the President. "And when they are sick, we must do what is right."