Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ben Stillwater -- The VA and Toxins: See No Evil, Cure No Evil

The VA and Toxins: See no Evil, Cure no Evil

Written by Ben Stillwater, Freelance Writer,

( - The military medical corps in the various branches have been responsible for some of the great leaps forward in treating battle injuries. The Veterans Administration has tried to match the treatment level provided at military hospitals with long term programs that over the years have met with varying degrees of success. But with the exception of battlefield gas, the military brass and the VA bureaucracy have chosen to act like ostriches over toxics exposure for nearly one hundred years. After every war it has taken years for the VA to acknowledge the impact of toxins in military environments and even longer for them to accept responsibility for treatment.

The Asbestos Epidemic

The 800,000 – plus lawsuits over asbestos exposure are old news today. But when World War II veterans, especially Navy veterans, began to develop mesothelioma and asbestosis thirty years after the war was over, the reaction from the military infrastructure was, “It wasn’t us.” It took the illness of tens of thousands of shipyard workers and Navy veterans who were exposed to asbestos insulation, asbestos sprays, asbestos gaskets, asbestos bearing packing, and the asbestos fabric used for fire protection to convince the VA that there was a problem. Between about 1930 and 1975 every Navy ship commissioned contained tons of asbestos insulation. The military bases and barracks built during that era contained flooring, roofing, ceiling tiles, insulation, joint compound, and cement that were laced with asbestos.

It can still be a challenge for veterans who have developed mesothelioma and who were exposed to asbestos during active duty, to prove to the VA that the exposure occurred during time of service. In the meantime thousands of critically ill veterans were denied treatment for a lethal form of cancer or for asbestosis, which is a progressive, non-curable, respiratory illness that slowly reduces breathing capacity. While most of those veterans are gone, the VA is still often reluctant to treat asbestos related illness as a service-related condition.

Agent Orange

The story of Agent Orange and its impact on Vietnam-era vets has played out on a public stage, with much more press coverage of and commentary on the issue than occurred with asbestos. For an interminable period of time veterans complained about various illnesses and the military command structure was resolute in denying any connection between the herbicides and veteran complaints. It’s been a very slow turn to the situation today, when the VA provides volumes of information on Agent Orange-related illnesses and health issues. The lawsuits started in 1979.

In 1983 as the result of a class action lawsuit, several chemical companies involved with the manufacture of Agent Orange set up a $180 million trust fund to pay damage claims filed by veterans who could claim “total disability” as the result of exposure to the herbicides. However the guidelines for claim recognition, the requirements for proof of illness and the window of opportunity for filing those claims led to fewer than 50,000 paid claims. The lawsuits have continued with no real civil restitution for the additional hundreds of thousands of veterans who may have been exposed, but the VA has slowly come to terms with the health damage that Agent Orange did to an entire generation of combat veterans. In 2003 the acknowledged link between Agent Orange and chronic lymphocytic leukemia; other diseases have followed.

Gulf War Syndrome

This generation’s battlefield poison has taken less time for recognition from the VA, but only because the number of impacted veterans is so high in relation to the number of men and women who served. As with Agent Orange, there is a collection of health problems that initially defied diagnosis as to cause. But the fact that those health problems exist is unmistakable; as this website notes over a third of the veterans who served have developed significant health problems.

The people who have gravitated to this website and certainly those who maintain it know much more about the Gulf-related health problems and their causes than we do. We can’t contribute to the body of knowledge on Gulf War Syndrome, but we can draw some parallels with previous wars, previous classes of veterans and previous responses from the military. In the case of all three wars, primary exposure to toxins was respiratory in nature. Protective measures were inadequate or nonexistent.

That’s not entirely a shortcoming of planning or logistics; in some cases such as with asbestos the danger was not widely acknowledged. What has been consistent, it seems, is the struggle to get VA recognition of and treatment for the health problems generated in these various war theaters. Sure, the health problems have been unusual, or difficult to link to a cause, but the conditions that veterans were exposed to were also unusual. Toxins cause all sorts of problems; multiple toxins cause multiple problems. Most recently the concern among Gulf War veterans has been the authorization of funds for research. A decade’s worth of tangible health problems should be a pretty good basis for clinical studies. Inertia in the VA has become an American military tradition.

Article Source:

Ben Stillwater is a freelance writer for Asbestos News, an information and news resource on the risks and dangers associated with high levels of asbestos exposure, and the related illnesses that arise from such exposure.  Ben prepared this article for as a special service to Gulf War veterans.

Christmas Message from VA Sec. Shinseki

A Christmas Message

From Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki

WASHINGTON (Dec. 22, 2010)-- The second year of our declared
independence found General George Washington's Continental Army encamped
at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.  In the week before Christmas of 1777,
more than 12,000 poorly-clothed, hungry and near-frozen American
soldiers were huddled against a brutal winter, enduring the numbing cold
as disease ravaged their ranks.  As many as 2,000 of them did not
survive Valley Forge.

General Washington wrote that, "unless some great and capital change
suddenly takes place. . . this Army must inevitably. . . starve,
dissolve, or disperse, in order to obtain subsistence in the best manner
they can."

Despite these bleak conditions, the fighting men of the Continental Army
lifted their own spirits, located much needed supplies and took to
training with determined vigor. They honed their basic fighting skills,
learned new tactics, preserved their dwindling strength and disciplined
themselves for the difficult campaign that would follow.  It was an act
of sublime courage and determination.  Six months later, the Continental
Army marched out of Valley Forge fit and ready, stronger and more
cohesive as a fighting force, and went on to seize American

Since that winter, American patriots in an unbroken line have found
themselves on duty during the holiday season each year.  Our freedom and
security as a nation has required it.  So as Americans and their
families gather to celebrate these holidays, let us remember the men and
women, who sacrifice so much for our privileges, comforts and
well-being.  They are away from their own families, standing watch for
us on freedom's distant frontiers.  We salute their valor, past and
present, and we pray for them and our Veterans, who have so selflessly
given us the gifts we enjoy this holiday season, as we have every season
since 1775.

I offer my warmest best wishes for a blessed and joyous holiday to all
our serving military, our Veterans, all of their families, the survivors
of the fallen, and the members of our Veterans Affairs family, who are
privileged to serve them.  May God bless each and every one of you, and
may God continue to bless this wonderful country of ours.  Merry

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

President George H. W. Bush Invites Desert Storm Veterans to Special Bush School Event Marking 20th Anniversary of Gulf War
Rare Gathering of Bush 41 Foreign Policy Team, Foreign Dignitaries at Texas A&M Next Month to Look Back at the Liberation of Kuwait
COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Dec. 21, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- President George H. W. Bush today released a video inviting all veterans of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm to a special Gulf War retrospective that the George Bush School of Government and Public Service is hosting next month, on January 20, 2011, on the campus of Texas A&M University.  The highlight of this special milestone event will be a rare roundtable discussion between the key members of the Bush 41 foreign policy team about the historic events that led to the liberation of Kuwait.
The presidential invite video can be seen at, and all interested veterans of the first Gulf War are invited to register to attend at by 5:00pm on Monday, January 10, 2011.
Some two decades ago, you answered the call to duty and helped spearhead an unprecedented coalition of nations determined to reverse Saddam Hussein's unprovoked invasion of neighboring Kuwait.  Your service in uniform during the course of Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm did more than eject the invaders and uphold international law.  Your courage, honor and selflessness also helped unite and inspire our Nation and heal the wounds of Vietnam.
It was, without a doubt, a great honor to serve as your Commander-in-Chief.
Next month, on January 20th, the George Bush School of Government and Public Service will convene a rare gathering of key players and distinguished guests at Texas A&M University to reflect on those momentous events that culminated in the liberation of Kuwait.  As someone who contributed much to that historic achievement, I hope you will accept this personal invitation to attend this special event as well.
If you can attend, we look forward to seeing you on the 20th.
If, however, you cannot join us, I hope you will once again accept my heartfelt gratitude and respect for helping the United States and our allies write one of history's noblest and most hopeful chapters.
Thank you for your service.
The distinguished participants in this rare event on January 20th to mark the beginning of military operations to liberate Kuwaitare scheduled to include:
His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, The Amir of the State of Kuwait
His Excellency the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Kuwait Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Sabah Al-Salim Al-Sabah
The Honorable Richard B. Cheney, former Vice President of the United States
The Honorable J. Danforth Quayle, former Vice President of the United States
The Honorable James A. Baker, III, former Secretary of State of the United States
The Honorable Colin L. Powell, former Secretary of State of the United States
The Honorable Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush
General (Ret.) Walter E. Boomer, United States Marine Corps
Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service

Members of the general public are also invited to attend and may register for tickets by calling the Texas A&M UniversityMemorial Student Center at (979) 845-1234.  For more information, please go to:
Opening its doors on the campus of Texas A&M University in 1997, the Bush School today ranks 22nd among public universities for public affairs programs.  The School educates principled leaders in public service and international affairs, conducts research, and performs service.  The Master of Public Service and Administration and the Master's Program in International Affairs are the two academic cornerstones of the School.  
In addition, the Bush School offers certificate programs in Homeland Security (online), Nonprofit Management (in-residence) and Advanced International Affairs (online or in-residence).  Distinguished, multidisciplinary faculty members are national and international leaders in their fields, and the School is home to the Institute for Science, Technology & Public Policy; the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy; and the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs.
SOURCE George Bush School of Government and Public Service

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Seattle Area 1991 Persian Gulf War Veterans Needed

Paid Research Volunteer Opportunity: Seattle VA study examining mindfulness-based intervention for Gulf War Syndrome.

Call Michelle at 206-277-1721.

Location: VA Puget Sound - Seattle

Saturday, December 18, 2010

FY11 VA, DoD Funding Remains Unclear

Written by Anthony Hardie, DAV-Wis. Special Assistant

( U.S. House of Representatives today voted to fund the federal government into next week, buying time for the current lame duck Congress to seek a compromise effort to decide FY11 funding for the entire federal government.

At stake are all twelve FY11 appropriations bills – including the Defense (DoD), and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MILCON-VA) bills -- which both houses of Congress have been seeking to roll into a single bill. 

The House has already passed a Continuing Resolution (CR), which, if passed by the U.S. Senate would fund the federal government at current FY10 levels.

Meanwhile, the Senate has been working on a separate, omnibus appropriations bill.   However, Senate Republicans have been successful in using a variety of delaying tactics that to date have prevented the Senate from passing even a single FY11 spending bill.

At particular stake for veterans are the VA spending bill and key measures, including Congressionally directed military medical health research, in the DoD spending bill. 

The current Congress ends on January 3, 2011, when the House majority will shift to Republican control.  The Democrats’ control of the Senate will be retained, albeit with a smaller majority than is currently held.

According to The Hill, one of two leading Capitol Hill daily newspapers, House Republicans want to roll federal spending back to FY08 levels. 

The New York Times used even stronger language, calling the current impasse a “collapse” into “partisan chaos.” 

According to the Times, “Aides said that behind closed doors, White House officials and some Democratic lawmakers were still trying to strike a deal to finance the government through September. But the officials said it was much more likely that government financing would be extended only into February or March.”

With all the twists and turns in Congress over the last week, the ultimate outcome is anyone’s guess.



Friday, December 17, 2010


Pledges Continued Support to Reduce Lung Cancer Mortality Among Veterans

Respiratory symptoms a frequently reported symptom among Gulf War veterans; CT screening may be important for some veterans

Written by the Lung Cancer Alliance

Washington, DC—Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA) salutes the nation's 21.9 million Veterans who have so nobly served our country and pledges to continue to make the high incidence of lung cancer among Veterans one of its highest priority issues.

Admiral T. Joseph Lopez, USN (Ret.), a member of the LCA board and only the second admiral in the Navy to rise to a four star rank from direct commissioning from the enlisted ranks said, “Lung cancer kills more Americans and Veterans than all other major cancers combined and it is attacking our Veterans with a higher frequency than our civilians, and now that we have incontestable evidence that early detection with CT screening can save lives, we simply must bring this benefit to our Veterans as expeditiously as possible.  We can do no less.”

Admiral Lopez recommends coordination between the VA and DOD in identifying those at highest risk and developing a comprehensive program of screening and early disease management.

“If we do this right and integrate CT screening for those at high risk into our Veteran and Military healthcare system  in an efficient and cost effective way,  we can set the standards for the civilian population and not only extend life, but save lives,” he said.

“What we cannot do is ignore this. I believe that screening should be our first step and the optimum choice to save and extend life for potential lung cancer victims in our Veteran community,” he said.

One of the first studies to document disparity in lung cancer incidence and mortality was carried out by the VA in 1987 and indicated that former Marine ground troops in Vietnam died of lung cancer at a 58% higher rate than marines who did not serve in the war.  

According to the most recent U.S.Census update, 35% of veterans today are from the Vietnam era.

Last week, the National Cancer Institute announced the results of a large, 53,000 person, eight year civilian study which showed that screening a high risk population with CT scans can reduce lung cancer deaths by 20%. 

LCA President and CEO Laurie Fenton-Ambrose said: “Veterans deserve our deepest gratitude for their extraordinary sacrifice and unyielding protection of our freedoms. We can help express that by moving quickly to bring the benefits of CT screening to those who are at high risk for lung cancer.”

Lung Cancer Alliance,, is the only national non profit dedicated exclusively to providing patient support and advocacy for those living with or at risk for lung cancer.  Lung Cancer Alliance is committed to reversing decades of stigma and neglect by empowering patients, elevating awareness and changing health policy.

To learn more, please click here to download the 2009 Lung Cancer and Veterans Fact Sheet (pdf).



Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Senate: $11.8 million for Gulf War related health research in Omnibus


Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

( - According to a key staff member in the office of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a longtime, leading champion of Gulf War Illness treatment research and other Gulf War related efforts in the U.S. Senate:

Here is what I found in the most recent FY 2011 Omnibus DOD Appropriations currently under consideration. 

Provides $8 million for the Peer Reviewed Gulf War Illness Research Program and $3.8 million for the ALS Therapy Development Institute Gulf War Research Project.

This will ensure continued funding at this year’s level, a wonderful outcome that is even more exceptional given the current challenges facing a lame duck Congress trying to get a lot done in a matter of days left before the end of the year.

And, General “Mic” would probably have been pleased to see this continued, designated funding for Gulf War related ALS funding.

So, in total, it appears highly likely that the FY11 funding for Gulf War related research in the CDMRP will be at $13.8 million, as described above.  Excellent news!

And, according to another key Hill insider from one of the leading veterans service organizations on this issue:

We have no influence on the current funding levels (they have been set by CBO and will not be impacted).

Putting all of our energy into planning a concerted effort to influence the next Authorization funding cycle will be a much more worthy endeavor.

In everyone’s opinion [on the Hill, this year’s GWI funding level] is set in stone at this point.

As noted in the 91outcomes’ earlier article, the House version already had a provision ensuring that DoD funding continues, for the most part, at FY10 levels.  As such, this includes $8 million for the peer reviewed $8 million Gulf War Illness research program.

And, if the Senate should also change course from the proposed “omnibus” appropriations act and move to a “clean” Continuing Resolution like the House has already passed, this will also result in the same funding outcomes for CDMRP Gulf War related health research.

So, good news all around!


Now is the time to begin thinking about preparing for a concerted effort in the next Congress to seek increased funding for DoD-Army-CDMRP GWI research. 

Given the possibility of new inter-agency, inter-institution research consortiums being funded, having a coordinated message by all organizations and individuals contacting Congress will be of critical importance. 


Fragmented messages and random calls by individuals not really clear on what it is for which they’re asking has the strong potential of derailing efforts. 

Anything perceived by members and staff in Congress as having a lack of clear unity on a particular issue -- like CDMRP GWI funding -- can lead to lots of calls and confusion and result in that particular issue – like CDMRP GWI funding -- to be left in the “too hard to do” category and left off from funding entirely.

And, the current “CR” and omnibus appropriations bills do not contain “line items” for these research programs – they’re mostly “clean” bills that simply say to continue funding across the board at last year’s levels.

This also means that there is little if any possibility of changing funding from last year’s levels.


So for now, individuals interested in contacting their members of Congress should simply say, “thank you” for the continued funding at this year’s level for all programs, including the DoD-Army-CDMRP peer reviewed Gulf War Illness research program. 


Stay tuned here on 91outcomes for updates on concerted efforts in the next Congress, which begins in January. 

It will be important that Gulf War veterans speak with one voice on these critically important issues, particularly with the possibility of a need to fund consortiums with FY12 funding.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Legislative Update: Current Status of DoD Gulf War Illness Research Funding Remains Volatile


Written by Anthony Hardie,

( – Just like last year, monitoring Congressional appropriations actions for the FY11 peer reviewed Gulf War Illness (GWI) research program administered under the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) and efforts to ensure the program’s funding success remain highly challenging. Gulf War Illness Program Booklet

As of today, it appears that both House and Senate actions suggest final GWI CDMRP funding for FY11 might be at $8 million, the same level as FY10. However, it should be noted that the situation continues to change rapidly. As always there are no guarantees until the entire Congress sends a final bill to the President.

Continued careful monitoring, combined with veterans advocates and organizations at the ready to contact key members of Congress, will be required.


On Wednesday, December 8, 2010, the House narrowly passed by a vote of 212-206 a Continuing Resolution (CR) that provides -- with various unrelated exceptions -- continued FY11 appropriations at FY10 levels, through September 30, 2011.

Under the CR, funding for the GWI program administered by the CDMRP reportedly would be retained at the FY10 funding level of $8 million.

Thirty-five House Democrats sided with 171 House Republicans in voting against the CR, while Eight Democrats and eight Republicans did not vote. This deep division suggests that future prospects for a final omnibus appropriations bill after Senate and conference action may also be challenging.


The Senate appropriations committee’s FY11 Defense appropriations act report language, which provides detailed funding by line item, directs $8 million for the Peer Reviewed Gulf War Illness Research Program.

The funding was requested in a letter by Senators Sanders, Bond, Feingold, Kerry, Tester, Schumer, Leahy, Durbin, Burris, Brown, Boxer, Snowe, and Kohl.

The Senate bill passed out of committee on September 16, 2010 by an 18-12 vote. Like all the other FY11 appropriations bills, the defense appropriations bill was not considered by the full Senate. However, it may very well remain a guide for future Senate action as discussed below.

Under the report accompanying the Senate bill, total appropriations for the military medical research programs currently operated by the CDMRP would be $358 million. In addition to the GWI appropriation, $150 million would be designated for peer reviewed research on breast cancer, $10 million for ovarian cancer, $80 million for prostate cancer, $60 million for psychological health and traumatic brain injury (TBI), and $50 million for the multifaceted peer reviewed medical research program (PRMRP).


It is currently expected that the Senate will combine the House’s CR into a Senate omnibus appropriations bill. Any action must be completed by the end of the current Congress on January 3, 2011.

Additionally, the FY11 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) remains an unknown variable in the legislative equation. It remains unclear whether or not the NDAA will pass before the current Congress ends and what impact, if any, an enacted NDAA might have on the CDMRP’s GWI research program.


Looking Back at Last Year: Who to Call

Last year, retaining funding for the Gulf War Illness research program was, as usual, extremely challenging for the handful of veterans advocates and organizations involved.

Initially, the Senate version of the FY10 Defense Appropriations Act lumped Gulf War Illness under the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP), a catch-all that included more than two dozen conditions including GWI and funded at just $50 million. While the PRMRP restricts research to the listed conditions, there is no guarantee that research will be funded for any particular condition from among those listed.

Initially, the House failed to include funding for the GWI program at all.

However, as the bill went back and forth between the House and Senate, advocacy efforts resulted in amendments to the final bills in both chambers and final FY10 GWI funding at $8 million.

A last minute save on October 1, 2009 by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and four of his colleagues amended (SA 2559) the Senate’s bill to include an amendment that would have appropriated $12 million for the GWI program. Those Senators included Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Oh.).

And, a December 11, 2009 letter by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh.) and 25 other Members of Congress called for the conference committee to fund the CDMRP’s GWI research program at the Senate’s $12 million level.

Ultimately, the conference committee set final funding for the FY10 GWI program at the original, lower House level of $8 million. Both the House and Senate agreed and the final Defense funding bill was enacted by the President.

GWI research supporters Sanders, Durbin, and Brown remain in the Senate.

However, Byrd died on June 28, 2010 and is being succeeded by former West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Feingold was defeated in the November 2010 election and is being succeeded by Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a Tea Party favorite.

GWI research funding supporters who signed onto the December 2010 Kucinich letter included the following. Of the 21 who remain in Congress, only four are Republicans, who will hold the majority in the House beginning January 3, 2011.  
  • Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)
  • Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.)
  • Rep. John Boccieri
  • Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.)
  • Rep. Henry Brown, Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee Ranking Member
  • Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.)
  • Rep. Steve Buyer, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member
  • Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.)
  • Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair
  • Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Tex.)
  • Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.)
  • Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.)
  • Rep. John Hall
  • Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.)
  • Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh.)
  • Rep. Steve LaTourette (D-Oh.)
  • Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.)
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.)
  • Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine), Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee Chair
  • Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.)
  • Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)
  • Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.)
  • Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.)
  • Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-Oh.)
  • Rep. Timothy Walz (D-Minn.)
  • Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska)


PRMPR research areas in the Senate bill would include the 32 conditions listed below. Four that are particularly relevant to Gulf War veterans are highlighted. The House CR would retain the list the same as in FY10. It should be noted that the final outcome remains indeterminate.
  1. amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS),
  2. autism,
  3. blood cancer,
  4. chronic fatigue syndrome,
  5. chronic migraine and post-traumatic headache,
  6. dental research,
  7. drug abuse,
  8. epidermolysis bullosa,
  9. epilepsy,
  10. fragile x syndrome,
  11. inflammatory bowel disease,
  12. interstitial cystitis,
  13. kidney cancer,
  14. lupus,
  15. melanoma,
  16. mesothelioma,
  17. multiple sclerosis (MS),
  18. neuroblastoma,
  19. neurofibromatosis,
  20. osteoporosis and related bone disease,
  21. Paget's disease,
  22. pancreatitis,
  23. Parkinson's,
  24. pediatric cancer,
  25. pheochromocytoma,
  26. polycystic kidney disease,
  27. post-traumatic osteoarthritis,
  28. scleroderma,
  29. social work research,
  30. tinnitus,
  31. tuberous sclerosis complex, and
  32. vision research.

§ FY11 House Continuing Resolution (CR) for combined FY11 appropriations: H.R. 3082 [Would fund GWIRP at $8 million]

§ Senate FY11 Defense Appropriations Act, S. 3800 [Would fund GWIRP at $8 million]

§ Senate FY11 Defense Appropriations Act Committee Report, S. Rpt 111-295 [Would fund GWIRP at $8 million]

§ FY10 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), PL 111-84 [Authorized GWIRP at $12 million]

§ FY10 Defense Appropriations Act Explanatory Statement (essentially the conference report), p. 367 [Funded GWIRP at $8 million]

Monday, December 6, 2010

National Survey Finds Gap in Doctor-Patient Communication


Editor’s comment:  This study captures the experience of many ill Gulf War veterans, who, at best, have frequently had their symptoms poorly understood by clinicians due to mixed and flawed VA and DoD messages about Gulf War illnesses, and, at worst, outright ignored our discounted.

Recognizing doctor-patient communication as a serious issue in treating Gulf War veterans’ illnesses is a key step to advancing effective treatments for Gulf War veterans.


Written by Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY

Dr. Megan Wills Kullnat, a fourth-generation physician, communicates with a new patient at her pediatric practice.

Dr. Megan Wills Kullnat, a fourth-generation physician, communicates with a new patient at her pediatric practice.

(USA TODAY) - Doctors and patients alike say that when they communicate well, healing goes better, and it can even make the difference between life and death.

But a national survey of doctors and hospitalized patients finds that, in reality, effective communication often is sorely lacking.

Only 48% of patients said they were always involved in decisions about their treatment, and 29% of patients didn't know who was in charge of their case while they were in the hospital.

"That's terrible," says Beth Lown, medical director of the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare at Massachusetts General Hospital, which commissioned the survey by Marttila Strategies in Boston. These patients "are orphans" in the hospital, she says.

Eighty-one percent of patients and 71% of doctors agreed communication made a difference in "whether a patient lives or dies," according to the survey of 500 doctors and 800 patients.

"So there's a disconnect between what people say they want and what's happening," says Gregory Makoul, chairman of the American Academy on Communication in Healthcare.

Emphasis on better communication has increased in recent years as the medical community has become more aware of its effect on patient healing. Since 1995, U.S. medical students have been required to get training in communication skills. And in 2005, the United States Medical Licensing Exam began to include testing on interpersonal and communication skills.

Communication skills and high patient-satisfaction scores can give hospitals a competitive edge as well as reduce malpractice claims, says Debra Roter, a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gulf War Illness Medical Treatment Research Funding Panel Meets Today

Opening Moment of Silence Recognizes Severity of Gulf War Illness, Impact on Gulf War Veterans Two Decades After War

Written by Anthony Hardie

( – Today, the integration panel of the Congressionally directed Gulf War Illness Research Program (CDMRP is a U.S. Department of Defense military medical research  funding program) will meet in the Washington, DC area to make its final determinations for funding approximately $8 million in Gulf War Illness research proposals.

The program is focused on treatments and research that will lead to treatments in order to improve the health and lives of Gulf War veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The funding, appropriated each year by Congress, in contained in the annual Defense authorization and appropriations acts.  This year’s defense authorization bill for has become the subject of news and controversy for several of the proposals it contains, though the media has made no mention of the Gulf War Illness research funding authorization it is believed to contain.

Proceedings of the panel are not public at this stage because the information being discussed includes proposals detailing proprietary intellectual property of the researchers and research institutions involved.

The funded proposals will be announced in the upcoming months, after they have been funded and contracts to perform the proposed research have been completed. 

It is customary for each CDMRP panel to begin with a “Moment of Silence”.  Having been given the honor of making today’s “Moment of Silence,” below is what I will be saying before the scientists, medical doctors, Gulf War veteran “consumer reviewers” and CDMRP staff and contractors begin this morning.

In recognition of the 250,000 veterans of the 1991 Gulf War who remain disabled by chronic multi-symptom illness better known as Gulf War Illness, may God bless these efforts, all the researchers who have worked so hard to develop proposed solutions to help improve the health and lives of Gulf War veterans, and the CDMRP staff, contractors, and reviewers, and the veterans all involved hope to help.


MOMENT OF SILENCE DEDICATION – Anthony Hardie, Gulf War Veteran

Delivered at the Commencement of the Gulf War Illness Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program’s Integration Panel Meeting at metro Washington, DC., December 2, 2010

The following are real stories from real Gulf War veterans who have written to me in the last few months.

From a A Missouri Navy Gulf War Veteran with PTSD and GWI: “I am a 90-91 veteran of the Gulf War. I have tried to receive help for many years through the Va and other sources. Since my discharge from the Navy I feel as though I really have not had a "good day" , when I am not sick with physical problem I am so withdraw from the outside world. I really don't know why I am writing this to you I just seen this and thought maybe someone would understand. Could you tell me where I could go or what you think Is wrong maybe you have encountered other veterans with some of these same problems.

“I have chronic breathing problems and bad stomach aches and body aches. My nose runs all the time and I have this persistent cough and a lot of time have hoarseness. I hate nighttime I do not sleep. I have severe anxiety and insomnia. I have severe mood swings and most of the time just want to be alone I cannot be around groups of people and really do not ever want to carry on conversations with anyone. I do not have friends and really do not want them. I just feel like life isn't going to be long for me so its hard for me to see the future. Is there any information or advice you could give me to help me and my family before I loose them all. Thank you your fellow veteran.”

And, From a female Gulf War veteran: “I finally (today) filed for VA disability for issues I have been dealing with since 1991 and that have increasingly gotten worse in the last 10 yrs. I filed for Fibromyalgia, Fatigue, tinnitis, headaches, plantar fascitis, and IBS. I did take the little pills and get the shots before deploying, but the military didnt keep records of this! There were also the black pesticide trucks all over Khobar where I lived every night. Main problem is that now, at 42, I can no longer handle the episodes or manage them with rest, diet, supplementation, etc, and new symptoms are cropping up now. I do not think I can work and support myself in a few years when they worsen even more.”

And, after responding to her, “THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU - It is nice to have someone tell me I have a case for my 19 years of suffering!!”

And, from A Medically Retired Army Gulf War Veteran from Kentucky: “ I'm feeling a little crappy, but oh well. I will live. Never had these rashes before the gulf. And they get bad and I get much sicker like I am now . Then my norm. But I have faith, things are going to get better.”

…And so, for the veterans like the Missouri Gulf War veteran with PTSD and GWI who has given up hope…

…For the 42-year-old female Gulf War veteran who is relieved just to know she has a case for her 19 years of suffering….

…For the Gulf War veteran from Kentucky who has faith in what we have been doing and what we are about to do here today…

…And for the approximately 250,000 of our fellow Gulf War veterans still dealing with chronic and debilitating multi-symptom illness not explained by any known psychiatric or medical diagnosis, please join me in a moment of silence before we begin this critically important work today and May God bless our efforts here today.