August 5, 1994

Veterans blame
birth defects
on Gulf War

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Bianca Miller became pregnant soon after her husband Stephen returned from the Persian Gulf War. Already having a healthy 2-year-old daughter, the couple expected no problems.
    But when Cedrick was born on March 1, 1992, their lives changed. The baby was missing an eye and an ear, his trachea and esophagus were connected and he had hydrocephalus and spina bifida.
    Genetic testing had shown no problems in the parents, and doctors said the unusual combinaion of deformities indicated a genetic, hereditary or chemical cause.
    "I told the physicians I was in Operation Desert Storm, and at this point they were quiet," Stephen Miller recalled Friday at a Senate hearing.
    Miller's story was part of a flood of emotional testimony before the Veterans Affairs Committee from veterans and their families who believe birth defects and other reproductive problems were caused by service-connected exposure to chemicals and radiation.
    "Today, when we try to meet the health needs of veterans, we need to continue to consider physical and mental battle wounds and the scars they leave behind, but we also need to think about the more subtle and sometimes longterm risks of unseen enemies, such as diseases and chemical exposures," said Sen. John D. Rockefellar IV, D-W.Va., the panel's chairman.