Sunday, May 17, 2009

New VA Rolls Out Same Old Cast of Characters for May 19th Congressional Hearing

By Anglico.

Nearly two decades after the 1991 Gulf War, VA continues to roll out the same characters to testify how that VA is doing more than enough to aid veterans left ill by their Gulf War service.

While it is true that VA does an exceptional job in providing post-combat mental health, orthopedic, and other services, VA has not done even an adequate job in seeking answers to what's wrong with so many Gulf War veterans and what they have in common.

In July 2007, Dr. Lawrence Deyton -- VA's principal witness for the May 19th hearing -- testified:

"Registry findings demonstrate that Gulf War veterans are not showing up with any unique health problems; however, these findings do not tell us if veterans are suffering from any diagnoses at rates different from expected. That requires population-based epidemiological and related research studies, which VA has carried out."

If this were true, then where are VA's publications about rates of MS and other dymelinating disorders, fibromyalgia/fibromyositis (FMS), myalgic encephalopathy/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), respiratory diseases, cancers, and other serious diseases that are being reported anecdotally among Gulf War veterans?

And where is VA's detailed death registry that explains the 40-50 or more deaths of Gulf war veterans each month, as tracked by Denise Nichols, a former Major in the U.S. Air Force who served during the war as a flight nurse. Has VA even bothered to contact Maj. Nichols to discuss her findings, which are shared widely in the Gulf War veteran community?

One of the veterans testifying at the same July 26, 2007 hearing, Anthony Hardie, pointedly noted VA's failure to provide published information to Gulf War veterans anymore:

"The VA’s Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards website contains little information that might be of any use to ill Gulf War veterans or their health providers. Much of the information provided is dated between 1996 and 2001, years before the more recent research discoveries related to ill Gulf War veterans that affirm what Gulf War veterans have been saying all along – that their Gulf War exposures are what made them ill.

"In July 2006, the VA’s “Gulf War Review” included an article entitled, “Straight from the Source: VA’s Environmental Agents Service is Serious About Communicating With Veterans.” That issue, a year ago, was the last issue published."

The VA officials testifying, Dr. Lawrence Deyton, Dr. Joel Kupersmith, and Mark Brown, Ph.D. -- the same three VA officials as in July 2007 -- testified that the "Gulf War Review" was set to be published by the end of that summer. Since the publication had been discontinued and the Gulf war community already knew this, it was no surprise that this was an outright lie. In fact, the next issue didn't come out until mid-Summer 2008, pre-dated May 2008.

These same three VA officials noted that the VA's Gulf War website for was also set to be updated. Not surprisingly, given the utter lack of priority they give to ill Gulf War veterans, nearly two years later and that web update has yet to happen.

Instead of rolling out the same old dog-and-pony-show on Tuesday, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and President Obama's other appointed senior leaders at VA should be taking personal responsibility for this issue and giving Gulf War veterans the high-level attention they deserve.

VA should also identify what new resources VA needs to provide adequate treatment, and systematically and proactively inform VA clinicians and Gulf War veterans of the most recent research related to understanding and treating ill Gulf War veterans, who continue to suffer.
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