Saturday, October 10, 2009

VA Advisory Committee Report Says VA Culture Change Neccesary to Help Gulf War Veterans

Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

( - October 10, 2009) - After 18 months of public and closed-door meetings, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans (ACGWV) has provided its report to VA Secretary Eric "Ric" Shinseki and publicly issued its findings regarding VA health care and benefits with regards to veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.

According to the Committee: 
"While there is still much that must be done in the quest to provide the best health care for Gulf War I Veterans, not one of these Veterans should be turned away due to a lack of understanding or sensitivity by VA staff. We believe this sentiment is captured in the title of this report--Changing the Culture: Placing Care before Process."

 The committee's recommendations are in its brief report, and are summarized below.  The full report, which terms veterans of the 1991 Gulf War, "Gulf War I" veterans, is also available from the VA website. 

Issue 1: Health Care Priority for Gulf War I Veterans
1. Reinstate authority to enroll Gulf War I Veterans into health care Priority Group 6.

Issue 2: Access to and Quality of Care for Gulf War I Veterans
1. Include Gulf War I Veterans in the Post Deployment Integrated Care Initiative or expand the services of Environmental Agents to include services provided through the Post Deployment Integrated Care Initiative.
2. Implement specialized programs to educate VA and contract medical personnel on Gulf War I medical issues, research, and regulations.
3. Establish a much stronger and more formal health care support
mechanism for Veterans at VA facilities by assigning a “Point Man,” a friendly and informed person during their initial interaction with the VA.

Issue 3: Undiagnosed Illnesses
1. Eliminate the end date for the presumptive period for compensation for Undiagnosed Illness in Gulf War I Veterans.
2. Apply the same standardized diagnostic criteria in VHA diagnoses and VBA ratings for Undiagnosed Illness.

Issue 4: Identification of Gulf War I Veterans in VA Records
1. Identify Gulf War I Veterans as a distinct group in all VA databases pertaining to eligibility for service and service to Veterans.
2. Incorporate clinical reminders for identified Gulf War I Veterans in the VHA Computerized Patient Record System.
3. Devote increased attention to the quality of information that populates the VA databases from which data to evaluate services to Gulf War I Veterans are drawn.

Issue 5: Outreach
1. Execute a comprehensive and targeted outreach to Gulf War I Veterans.
2. Use the 20th Anniversary of the Gulf War as a positive opportunity to attract Gulf War I Veterans back to the VA.
3. Contact Gulf War I Veterans who participated in the original Registry Exams and invite them back for follow-up exams.
4. Place additional emphasis on outreach to female Veterans.
5. Conduct a longitudinal study.

Issue 6: Timeliness of Communications
1. Respond to inquiries from Advisory Committees within 30 days.
2. Publish and distribute Gulf War Review Newsletters and other VA information products in a timely manner.

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