Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Letter from VA Chief of Staff John Gingrich

RE:  Gulf War Task Force Draft Written Report Public Comment submissions

Dear contributor,

Thank you for commenting on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses Task Force draft report. Your insights, issues and ideas are not only important to VA but to every Veteran who served in the Gulf. VA is committed to improving its transparency and public engagement in finding innovative solutions to these long standing issues. We recognize that VA must actively engage our Veterans to ensure that misconceptions are addressed and that stakeholders and Veterans are empowered and thus part of the solution in ensuring that VA is the best it can be.

This is our first initiative where we have solicited public feedback on policy proposals utilizing both the Federal Register and a public comment driven New Media messaging board. The responses have been historic. Never before has VA received so many public comments on a proposed rule, regulation, or policy in such a short period of time. We thank you for your responsiveness.

VA is reviewing all comments and recommendations related to the draft findings and conclusions. Once the review is completed an updated version of the report will be drafted. The Secretary will be made aware of your recommendations, and the other issues presented before publishing our report in late July. VA does not consider this a final report and will continue to work with Gulf War Veterans and their families as we move forward and begin the 2011 Task Force Report.

Having commanded troops during the Gulf War, and then knowing that some of these brave men and women have fallen to mysterious illnesses has been both a frustrating and saddening experience. Some of your shared personal stories have been particularly compelling as well as enlightening to me and our team.

We now have an opportunity to do something about this situation, and with this Task Force I know that we will greatly improve the care and services Veterans have earned in service to our country. Also, a special thanks is extended to the Veteran Service Organizations who not only commented on the report but actively spread the word to Veterans about this draft written report.

I would also like to take this opportunity to encourage you to attend the Gulf War Veterans Reunion in Dallas, Texas this coming summer. This event will be hosted by the National Gulf War Resource Center (NGWRC) and will provide an opportunity to gather, fellowship and share information. I will be there with my team to discuss the latest efforts VA is making on behalf of Gulf War Veterans. For further information on this event, please visit the URL noted below: http://www.ngwrc.org/2010/2010%20reunion.htm.

Finally, please note that general information on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ benefits and services related to service in the Persian Gulf Theater may be found at www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar/ or the toll free helpline at: 1-800-749-8387

Personal regards,

John R. Gingrich

Chairman, Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses Task Force

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