Friday, October 2, 2009

Senate Includes Funding for Gulf War Illness Treatments Despite Alleged Pentagon Opposition

Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

( - Friday, October 2, 2009) - According to a Capitol Hill source, Pentagon officials opposed Congressional funding for the Gulf War Illness Research Program of DoD's Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, a program praised by veterans, CDMRP programmatic officials, and Congress for its early efforts in finding effective treatments to help improve the health and lives of ill Gulf War veterans.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate approved by unanimous consent the inclusion an amendment to the current Defense spending bill
that would continue funding the program at $12 million for the upcoming year. The amendment was introduced by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) at the urging of an outpouring of support from military and veterans service organizations, veterans of the 1991 Gulf War, and their advocates. 

At the same time as the Pentagon's alleged opposition to the treatment program for ill veterans of the 1991 Gulf War, the Pentagon provided an official response denying the existence of any common illness shared by ill Gulf War veterans in
correspondence obtained by 91 outcomes.  The verbatim text of the Pentagon's September 30, 2009 response is as follows:

Nearly all studies have shown that veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War report symptoms more frequently that veterans who did not deploy.  These include symptoms in every organ system in the body.

However, Gulf War veterans have been diagnosed with hundreds of different diseases.

Nearly every group of experts, who have reviewed the medical studies of Gulf War veterans, have concluded that there is no single illness that every ill Gulf War veteran has. That is, they do not all suffer from the same disease.

That is NOT the same as saying the veterans are not ill.  It only means that each individual should have a thorough medical evaluation to determine his or her personal medical diseases.  This is the only way to determine the appropriate medical treatment. Among Gulf War veterans, "one size does not fit all."

There is no contradiction to say that a group of people has a variety of symptoms, but that they have different diseases.  For example, skin rashes, which could look similar superficially, are caused by many different diseases.  These different diseases require different treatments. Giving the wrong treatment for a rash often makes it get worse, not better.

The Department of Defense correspondence was in response to a veteran's inquiry regarding a presentation by the Pentagon's Dr. Kelley Brix on September 1, 2009 at the 2009 Military Health Research Forum in Kansas City.

The inquiry from a veteran asked, "Dr. Brix's presentation included acknowlegement of high rates of multiple symptoms in many Gulf War veterans who have remained ill, yet adamantly denied a unique Gulf War Syndrome.  Specifically, what is the explanation for the scope and duration of ill Gulf War veterans' symptoms?"

The Pentagon's response did not address or acknowledge numerous studies that have developed between one and three case definitions for Gulf War Syndrome.   

The Pentagon's response also did not acknowledge a groundbreaking November 2008 VA study by the Congressionally chartered Research Advisory Committee (RAC) on Gulf War Veterans' Illnessses, which found that lasting multi-system injury, including neurological damage, resulted from 1991 Gulf War troops' combined exposure to pyridostigmine bromide (PB) nerve agent protective pills and high doses of two toxic-strength pesticides, DEET and permethrin.  

The VA's RAC report stated that its reviewers could not rule out a host of other exposures as potentially contributing to Gulf War veterans' illnesses, including Iraqi chemical warfare agents, particulate matter from nearly 900 Kuwaiti oil well fires lit by retreating Iraqi troops, and several other toxic hazards encountered by 1991 Gulf War troops.

Congressionally the Senate's recent amendment to provide $12 million in funding for treatements under the Gulf War Illness Research Program of DoD's COngressionally Directed Medical Research Program.

Earlier this year, the House included $8 million in funding for the program.  A conference committee between the U.S. House and Senate will determine the program's final fate.

According to VA's estimates, between 175,000 and 210,000 of the 696,842 veterans of the 1991 Gulf War remain debiliated with chronic multi-symptom illness resulting from their wartime service, a number far higher than any other war in U.S. history.

The final hearing in a three-part investigatory series
on the failures of the federal government's previous efforts to improved the health and lives of ill Gulf War veterans, despite well over $200 million in Congressional appropriations for earlier, non-treatment focused programs, is anticipated in October.  The series of hearings is being conducted by the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

The funding and hearings come on the heels of the federal VA's cancellation of a $75 earmarked research contract on Gulf War Syndrome with Dr. Robert Haley and the University of Texas Southwestern.  The VA cited contract disputes in cancelling the cutting-edge research program.


Additional information:  Sanders-Byrd-Feingold Amendment No. 2559 to H.R. 3326, the FY10 Department of Defense Appropriations Act

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