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Last Updated: Friday, 13 June, 2003, 09:11 GMT 10:11 UK
Veteran wins Gulf War ruling
Shaun Rusling celebrating the decision
Shaun Rusling: "I am elated"

The High Court in London has upheld a ruling that a former soldier is entitled to a pension because he is suffering from a syndrome linked to his service in the 1991 Gulf War.

Campaigners hope it will make it easier for other veterans who say their health has been wrecked to claim damages.

But the judge has made it clear that the ruling does not mean official recognition of the generic concept of Gulf War Syndrome. Subsequent cases would have to be considered on their individual merits, he said.

Mr Justice Newman decided on Friday to back a decision by a war pensions tribunal that former Parachute Regiment medical officer Shaun Rusling was the victim of an identifiable syndrome attributable to his service in the Gulf.

I treated Iraqi casualties with more care and compassion than the MoD has treated me
Shaun Rusling

The decision had been challenged by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which does not accept the existence of any such syndrome.

Initially, the War Pensions Agency had refused Mr Rusling a war pension.

But that ruling was overturned at the subsequent tribunal, prompting the MoD to act.

After the judgment, Mr Rusling said: "I am elated. It is a total vindication of all war veterans suffering from Gulf War syndrome."

Immunisations offered to troops in both Gulf Wars
Polio
Tuberculosis
Meningitis A and C
Typhoid
Tetanus
Diptheria
Yellow fever
Cholera
Anthrax
Hepatitis B
Soldiers fighting in the first conflict were also offered vaccinations against whooping cough and the plague.
However, he criticised the MoD for repeatedly trying to block his claim.

"How many times do you have to go before a court to prove the problems you have got from service for your country?

"The treatment we have had is outrageous. I treated Iraqi casualties with more care and compassion than the MoD has treated me, and my fellow sufferers from the Gulf War."

Many veterans of the 1991 Gulf War claim to suffer a range of symptoms which they say amounts to a "syndrome".

Injections

Depression, eczema, fatigue, nausea and breathing problems were among the symptoms they reported.

They have identified several possible causes, with the most likely being injections against chemical weapons.

The MoD disputes there is any one syndrome. Though it accepts some troops have suffered ill-health as a result of the war, it says factors such as exposure to depleted uranium and the smoke from burning oil wells cannot be ignored.

1990 Gulf War troops
Soldiers were given drugs to combat chemical weapons
It had turned down claims by victims for army pensions, until Mr Rusling won his appeal in May 2002.

During the Gulf War, he served as an army medic in the Parachute Regiment, treating the Iraqi wounded at a field hospital inside the Saudi border.

After coming home, he suffered chronic fatigue and was discharged on medical grounds in 1995.

A year ago a pensions appeal tribunal cited Gulf War syndrome as the injury, wound or disease on which his case was based.

The MoD appealed and the case went to the High Court.

But in his ruling, Mr Justice Newman said he could find no basis upon which the tribunal's decision could be legally impugned.

More claims

Mr Rusling's lawyer Mark McGee said the victory may make it easier for other Gulf War veterans to pursue their claims.

"All other Gulf veterans who say they are suffering from this condition will now be able to bring their claims to an appeals tribunal."

But in a statement after the hearing the MoD pointed out that despite the decision, the judgment did not find that Gulf War Syndrome exists.

"We accept that some Gulf veterans have become ill and that many veterans believe this ill-health is related to their Gulf experience.

"There is no medical or scientific consensus about the causes of this ill-health.

"The overwhelming consensus of medical and scientific opinion is that the symptoms reported by some Gulf veterans do not constitute a discrete medical disorder or syndrome."

Four soldiers who fought in this year's conflict are threatening to sue the MoD because they say they share similar symptoms.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Paul Adams
"This is a highly technical case and it won't stop the tortured debate"



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