Tuesday, March 2, 2010

War Injury Centers provide Health Assessments, Research to Help Gulf War Veterans

Veterans with unexplained war-related illness, injury can be referred with no cost to the veteran

By Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes Publisher/Editor

(Washington, DC – 91outcomes.com) - In a presentation by Dr. Gudrun Lange, director of the War Related Injury and Illness Study Center (WRIISC) for post-deployment health concerns since 2005, veterans with unexplained war-related illness or injury can be seen by one of the three WRIISC centers around the country at no charge to the veteran.

Previously Dr. Lange served as a researcher at the WRIISC on fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and Gulf War Syndrome.  Also present were the directors of the other two WRIISC’s, as well as Dr. Michael Petersen of the VA’s Environmental Agents Service.

VA established the WRIISC’s in 2001 in response to deployment-related health concerns of veterans returning from the 1991 Persian Gulf War.  The WRIISC’s were established in three locations, including Palo Alto, Calif., Washington, DC, and East Orange, N.J. 

The WRIISC’s provide research, clinical service, risk communication, and education, as well as comprehensive clinical evaluations, exposure evaluations, and education/outreach.

Health Assessments and Treatment “Roadmap”

The WRIISC’s provide a second opinion resource, addressing the post-deployment health needs of combat veterans from past and future conflicts. 

The WRIISC’s provide consultative clinical assessments to veterans with deployment-related health concerns and illnesses to improve their health related concerns.

The Comprehensive Clinical Evaluation provided by the WRIISC’s is a comprehensive standardized medical evaluation of medically unexplained symptoms for Gulf War veterans and veterans from any era or conflict.  The assessment includes medical evaluation and labs, exposure evaluation, and more.  Treatment recommendations are made.

Participating veterans receive a “roadmap” that focuses on helping the veteran and his or her caregivers to better understand the veteran’s health conditions and what helps or hurts.  To date, more than 420 PGWVs, and 750 other era veterans have been seen at the WRIISC’s.

Travel expenses are covered for veterans participating in an evaluation at the WRIISC’s.

The exposure assessment includes occupational and environmental medicine physicians conducting an exposure evaluations, from birth to the present.  The assessments are also done as a stand alone service to any veteran of any era, including in person or by telephone.  Common wartime exposures are discussed and the WRIISC’s are followed-up, and participating veterans are provided with written documentation that list their exposures.

While the documentation of exposures cannot be used for VA’s service-connected disability compensation, it can be used by the C&P evaluating physicians in their evaluation of the veteran.

Some of the treatments also include alternative therapies, including Yoga and acupuncture, which have been shown to be helpful in chronic pain and other symptoms and conditions.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE:  To participate in a clinical evaluation, the primary care provider or the veteran can call one of the WRIISC’s, or use an electronic form to request the evaluation.

Call the National Coordinator: 1-202-461-1013, use the WRIISC website, at www.WarRelatedIllness.va.gov, or contact the appropriate WRIISC directly:

  • For veterans west of the Mississippi -- Palo Alto, Calif.: 1-888-482-4376
  • For veterans east of the Mississippi and in the southern portion of U.S. -- Washington, D.C.: 1-800-722-8340
  • For veterans east of the Mississippi and in the northern portion of U.S. -- East Orange, N.J.: 1-800-248-8005


Another key role of the WRIISC’s is to conduct medical research that will help improve the health and lives of ill Gulf War veterans and other war veterans.

To date, the WRIISC’s have more than 45 research publications specific to veterans of the 1991 Gulf War, with active research collaborative relations with numerous top research universities. 

“I think the time for a lone researcher, working alone, to figure out Gulf War illness is over,” said Dr. Lange, stressing the need for wide collaborative research efforts to help Gulf War veterans at this point in time, nearly 20 years after the war.

The WRIISC’s research serves to help medical care practitioners nationwide to help Gulf War and other veterans.

She called for veterans organizations to help spread the word about participating in research that will benefit all veterans.  She pointed out that potentially beneficial studies have died in the past because of a sample size of study participants that was too small.

Among the WRIISC’s Gulf War research recently completed or in progress:

  • Early life determinants of vulnerability to PB (Weaver).
  • Interactions between maternal care, stress and PB (Weaver).
  • Cardiovascular hyperactivity and fatiguing illness in Gulf War veterans
  • Pain sensitivity in Gulf War veterans with medically unexplained musculoskeletal pain (Cook, UW).
  • Motor neuron function of Gulf War veterans with excessive fatigue (Li)
  • Functional imaging in Gulf War veterans with unexplained musculoskeletal pain (Cook)
  • MRI/PET/CT brain scanning in Gulf War veterans – detection of abnormalities and surveillance for irregular patterns.
  • Telemedicine treatments for veterans with Gulf War Illness.
  • Predictors of medically unexplained symptoms. (McAndrew).
  • Avoiding PTSD relapse through behavioral conditioning .

Studies proposed or planned by the WRIISC’s include:

  • Physiological causes of sleep disturbance in Gulf War veterans and implications for treatment.  (Serrador, preparing for CDMRP funding).
  • The effectiveness of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) for chronic pain in veterans with Gulf War Illness (Ashford)
  • Evaluating the implementation of a cognitive rehabilitation program for Gulf War veterans (Hodkiss)
  • Complimentary and Alternative medicine: treatment feasibility study for sleep disturbances in Gulf War veterans (Rusiewicz)
  • Complimentary and Alternative medicine: Mind/Body Treatment program for veterans with pain, fatigue, and PTSD (Mahoney)
  • Brain imaging studies.
  • Cutting edge genetic studies.
  • Cardiovascular and vestibular (related to the inner ear and balance and dizziness) studies.




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