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Page last updated at 17:23 GMT, Wednesday, 26 May 2010 18:23 UK
'Gulf War left me disabled' - says Manchester soldier

Mike Catt
Mike Catt served with the Royal Corps of Transport in Kuwait

A former soldier from Manchester who says he's suffering from Gulf War related illness almost 20 years later is backing calls to review the Army's compensation scheme.

Mike Catt, 42, from Withington, served in Kuwait in 1991 but claims he has been left disabled by illnesses which he believes are related to his time in the Gulf.

Lord Morris of Manchester, who introduced the world's first disabled rights legislation 40 years ago, is calling for more to be done for veterans who suffer Gulf War-related illnesses.

However, the Government still insists there is no evidence that Gulf War syndrome exists.

Gulf War

Before the first Gulf War in 1991, troops were given multiple vaccines to try to protect them from chemical weapons attacks.

In addition, their tents were sprayed with insecticides believed to contain organo-phosphates.

Mike, who served with 1 Squadron of the Royal Corps of Transport delivering fuel to tanks in Kuwait, is just one of thousands of soldiers who later reported feeling ill with a variety of symptoms.

GULF WAR SYNDROME
Gulf War soldier receiving injection
6,000 Gulf War veterans are thought to be ill following the 1991 conflict
Possible causes include multiple vaccines against anthrax and plague
nerve agents from Iraqi chemical weapons storage facilities and pesticides sprayed on tents have also been blamed
The use of depleted uranium (DU) in weapons is another possible factor

These included chronic fatigue, sexual dysfunction, headaches, muscle pain, joint pain, mood swings, loss of concentration, memory loss, tingling and depression.

"When I got back I noticed my health really started to deteriorate," said Mike.

"Within weeks I started getting a few niggles like colds and tonsillitis and migraines which I'd never had. People noticed that I became very anti-social, I didn't want to go out."

Adding: "My mum hit the nail on the head when she said, her son went to War but he never came back."

The Gulf War veteran suffers chronic arthritis and now receives incapacity benefit after being signed off by his GP as unfit to work.

"I was an HGV driver for 12 months after I left the Army but I had to stop," added Mike. "I was a danger to myself and other people on the roads because I was having vacant spells."

He added that his condition has since worsened to the point where he can no longer do the things he enjoys.

"I used to be quite active. I used to play rugby for the squadron down in Colchester. But these days I can't even kick a ball about with the grand kids."

"The Army was my life," he said. "I went out there to do a job and now I just feel let down."

Compensation

In 2008, a Committee of Congress acknowledged that Gulf War Syndrome was a distinct physical condition. As a result, the US government increased compensation to victims.

ACCESS ALL AREAS
BBC North West's look at Lord Morris' Act and how it has helped change the lives of people with disabilities begins on The Politics Show on Sun 23 May
The coverage continues through the week on North West Tonight and Radio Manchester

However, that's not been the view of successive British governments since 1991.

In 2004, the government dismissed the findings of an independent public inquiry that said the syndrome did exist.

It also refused to give credence to two US reports published in 2005 acknowledging a link between veterans' illnesses and Gulf service.

The MoD has issued a statement saying that, despite extensive medical and scientific research both in the UK and abroad, no evidence of a unique "Gulf War Syndrome" has been found.

It says that, while it accepts there is good evidence of raised sickness levels among Gulf veterans, their symptoms do not constitute a unique syndrome.

'New disabilities'

Lord Morris of Manchester has long campaigned on behalf of the veterans. He believes the war pension system the army uses to pay compensation to veterans needs updating.

"If someone has lost a leg above the knee, there would be an entitlement. If they'd lost both legs, there would be more," he said.

"That was the scheme and you couldn't do for more for the survivors of one war than you could for another.

"But it's really out of date. New disabilities were created in the [Gulf] war, that's the distinctive thing."




SEE ALSO
Q&A: Gulf War illness
17 Nov 04 |  Health


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