Subscribe to receive 91outcomes email updates

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hutchison Statement on Veterans Affairs’ Decision to Reconsider Rejected Claims of Gulf War Vets

Calls Decision ‘Vindication’ for Gulf War Veterans

(Washington, DC – PRESS RELEASE ) U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison released the following statement concerning the Department of Veterans Affairs decision to reconsider the rejected claims of Gulf War veterans:

“Today’s decision by the VA to reconsider the rejected claims of the Gulf War veterans is a long-awaited vindication for those veterans who have suffered unexplained illness as a result of their service during the Gulf War and for those who have advocated on their behalf for benefits, research and treatment. I want to commend the VA for finally recognizing Gulf War Illness in our veterans and for the pro-active approach they will take in the future in dealing with these veterans, funding research and granting benefits to those who may have been exposed. For too long, our veterans have had their health concerns dismissed as ‘imaginary’ or ‘stress-related’ first by the Department of Defense and then by the VA. I commend Secretary Shinseki for doing the right thing.

“It is also a vindication for the medical researchers at UT Southwestern and elsewhere who have worked tirelessly to identify the connection between the exposure to chemicals and toxins our servicemen and women may have experienced during the first Gulf War and the symptoms and illnesses these veterans suffer from today.

“I fought long and hard for funding for Gulf War Illness research, and to get it I had to fight an entrenched bureaucracy that denied the legitimacy of these veterans’ health issues. No one was a bigger ally of mine nor a greater voice in support of these veterans during those battles than Ross Perot, who has been a tireless supporter and advocate for veterans.”

Click here to view related Website: Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Secretary Shinseki Announces Gulf War Task Force Report

Comprehensive approach to delivering care and benefits to Veterans

(Washington, DC – VA) - Today, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced that the department’s Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses Task Force has nearly completed a comprehensive report that will redefine how VA addresses the pain and suffering of ill Veterans who deployed during the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991.

“At VA, we advocate for Veterans – it is our overarching philosophy and, in time, it will become our culture,” Secretary Shinseki said. “Every day we must challenge our assumptions to serve our Nation’s Veterans.”

The mission of VA’s Gulf War Task Force is to identify gaps in services as well as opportunities to better serve Veterans of the Gulf War.  Of the almost 700,000 service members who deployed to Operation Desert Shield in 1990 and Operation Desert Storm in 1991, there have been 300,000 Gulf War Veterans with claims decisions, over 85 percent were granted service connection for at least one condition, and over 14 percent were not granted service connection for any condition. 

“We must learn from the past and take the opportunity to anticipate the future needs of our Veterans,” Shinseki said.  “This new approach is the first step in a still unfolding comprehensive plan of how VA will treat and compensate Veterans of the Gulf War era.”

The chairman of the Gulf War Task Force is John R. Gingrich, Chief of Staff at Veterans Affairs and retired Army officer who served during the Gulf War.  “Reaching out to Gulf War Veterans is not only essential to our transformation of VA, for many of us it is also personal,” Mr. Gingrich said.  “Having commanded troops in Gulf War, and then witness some of them fall to mysterious illnesses has been very difficult to watch. With this Task Force, I am hopeful we can provide these men and women a better quality of life.” 

VA’s Gulf War Task Force recommendations build on the findings from the 2008 VA Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illnesses. The Task Force’s recommendations include:

  • Improve data sharing with Department of Defense to notify Veterans of potential exposures, monitor their long-term health and inform them about decisions regarding additional follow up.
  • Improve the delivery of benefits to Veterans with Gulf War-related disabilities by

a.         Reviewing, and if necessary, updating regulations affecting Gulf War Veterans.

b.         Expanding training for VBA examiners on how to administer disability claims with multiple known toxin exposure incidents.

  • Improve VA healthcare for Veterans through a new model of interdisciplinary health education and training.
  • Increase number of long term, Veteran-focused studies of Veterans to enhance the quality of care VA provides.
  • Transition from reactive to proactive medical surveillance to help better manage Veterans’ potential hazardous exposures.
  • Find new treatments for Gulf War Veterans through new research.
  • Enhance outreach to provide information and guidance to Veterans about benefits and services available to them for injuries/illnesses associated with Gulf War service.

 

--------------------------------------------

VA Gulf War Veterans Illness Task Force

Background Brief 26 February 2010

The Gulf War Veterans Illness Task Force (GWVI-TF) is a leading edge of the Secretary’s vision of transforming the VA into a 21st century organization. The Task Force represents a bold step forward in how VA considers and addresses the challenges facing not just Veterans of a specific era, but the challenges facing all Veterans. Improving the responsiveness of the VA to the challenges facing the 1990-1991 Gulf War Veterans is a priority that requires innovation and the engagement of all stakeholders, including VA employees, DoD, Congress and Veterans’ Service Organizations (VSOs). This brief summarizes the efforts of the Task Force and the recommendations made in the draft report which was written by an interdisciplinary team of subject matter experts from across multiple work centers within VA. The intended outcome is to take the VA one step closer to the goal of improving services for Gulf War Veterans across the spectrum of care and benefits.

Task Force Mission, Efforts, and Approach

The Task Force was formed in August 2009 to provide a unified and cohesive organizational instrument to address the concerns and needs of Gulf War Veterans, especially those who suffer from unexplained chronic multisystem, or undiagnosed illnesses. From the outset, the VA recognized that this was a complex issue with many people deeply invested in its resolution. We recognized the frustrations that many Veterans and their families experience on a daily basis as they look for answers, and seek benefits.

The Task Force was charged with conducting a comprehensive review of all VA programs and services that serve the Gulf War cohort of Veterans. The Task Force was further charged to identify gaps in services as well as opportunities to better serve this Veteran cohort, and then develop results-oriented recommendations to decisively advance VA’s efforts to address their needs. The Task Force considered a successful mission outcome as a coherent, comprehensive and facts-based action plan, which considers and integrates appropriate viewpoints from stakeholders and subject matter experts.

The Task Force focused its efforts on Veterans who were deployed to the Operation Desert Shield or Operation Desert Storm components of the 1990-1991 Gulf War period. However, as part of the Task Force charge to develop innovative and forward-looking solutions, it identified lessons learned from past practices and policy that can be applied to today’s programs and services supporting the Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom cohort.

The Gulf War is legally defined as beginning on August 2, 1990, and extending through a date to be prescribed by Presidential proclamation or law.  The term "Gulf War Veterans" could refer to all Veterans of conflicts in Southwest Asia during this period, including Veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and subsequent conflicts in this theater. These possibilities informed the recommendations with the view that this report would serve as a foundation for treating the unique wounds of war of the present conflicts.

In order to accomplish these goals, the Task Force was designed as a matrix organization within VA that meets regularly to investigate allegations and perceptions, analyze facts and data, coordinate and review findings and proposals, and collaboratively develop recommendations. The Task Force includes staff from the Office of the Secretary (OSVA), Veterans Heath Administration (VHA), Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs (OPIA), Office of Policy and Planning (OPP), and the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs (OCLA). The staff from these offices represented a broad spectrum of subject matter expertise and stakeholder perspectives necessary to ensure success. Members were charged with defining the key areas of review, consulting key experts and relevant stakeholders, and capturing the issues, data, programmatic and performance information necessary to inform their recommendations.

The Task Force draft report reflects an unprecedented VA approach to problem solving. The approach uses an interdisciplinary team of subject matter experts from across multiple horizontal domains of VA, to include direct senior leader participation. The GWVI-TF worked with great speed and agility over several months to develop a comprehensive plan of action consistent with the challenge inherent in Secretary Shinseki’s pledge to all Veterans in his comments before the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution on 9 January 2010: “At VA, we advocate for Veterans – it is our overarching philosophy and, in time, it will become our culture.”

Task Force Objectives

The draft report’s action plans form an initial roadmap to transform the care and services we deliver to the Gulf War cohort. Execution of these plans will deliver the critical tools for frontline staff to address issues raised by VA and Gulf War Veterans, Veteran Service Organizations, Congressional committees, and other external stakeholders.

Due to significant limitations in the VA’s Gulf War Veterans Information System (GWVIS) and the reports generated from the various data sources used by GWVIS, it is extremely difficult to accurately portray the experiences of the 1990-1991 Gulf War cohort and their respective disability claims or health care issues. That said, this shortfall did not prevent the GWVI-TF from identifying gaps in services as well as opportunities to better serve this Veteran cohort.

The Task Force developed action plans to deliver new and improved tools for VA personnel based on seven core themes:

  • Partnerships: Partner with the Department of Defense (DoD) to improve communication and subsequently the care and services VA delivers to Veterans;
  • Benefits: Reassess and revise benefit policies as needed and empower and train VA compensation personnel to better secure the benefits Veteran clients have earned;
  • Clinician Education and Training: Empower clinical staff to better serve Veteran needs through a new model of interdisciplinary health education and training;
  • Ongoing Scientific Reviews: Ensure long-term population-based surveillance efforts for improved care for Veterans;
  • Medical Surveillance: Transition from reactive to proactive medical surveillance to identify and better manage possible adverse health outcomes of Veterans’ potential hazardous exposures;
  • Research and Development: Strengthen the foundation today for tomorrow’s more comprehensive short and long-term program for research and development; and
  • Outreach: Enhance outreach to reconnect VA care, services, information and databases.

These action plans are not meant to be the definitive panacea for caring for Gulf War Veterans. While a starting point, this Veteran-centric care will require continued efforts and vigilance on the part of all stakeholders. Implementing the recommendations in this report will provide VA staff with the means to continue to advocate and care for all Gulf War Veterans.

Task Force Recommendations

The Task Force organized the report around seven themes that drive action plans for the way ahead. The seven theme subjects are summarized below and are: partnerships, benefits, clinician education and training, ongoing scientific reviews and population based surveillance, enhanced medical surveillance of potential hazardous exposure, research and development, and veteran outreach.

Partnerships: Veteran care is profoundly influenced by how well DoD and VA share information and resources in the areas of deployment health surveillance, assessment, follow-up care, health risk communication, and research and development. VA is dependent on DoD to identify environmental hazards and service members who were possibly exposed to those hazards.

VA and DoD already collaborate through the Deployment Health Working Group (DHWG). The draft report proposes to leverage the DHWG as the principal mechanism for VA to receive data on environmental exposures of Service members, but this proposal has not been coordinated yet with the DHWG. Additionally, the report proposes using the DHWG to provide regular progress reports on data sharing efforts to the VA/DoD Health Executive Council.

Benefits: The Task Force received input from Veterans and Veterans' stakeholders concerning the benefits and services targeted to Gulf War Veterans. Specifically, there was concern that some Veterans were continuing to suffer from symptom clusters that could not be attributed to known diseases or disabilities through conventional medical diagnostic testing and that these Veterans were "falling through the cracks" within the current disability compensation scheme.

As a result, the Task Force reviewed the current legislative and regulatory provisions unique to the Gulf War cohort of Veterans. Rule-making is underway to add additional diseases to the list of those subject to the presumption of service connection based on qualifying Gulf War service. Based on evidence provided by the National Academy of Sciences on chronic diseases associated with service in Southwest Asia, additional rules to ensure that Veterans can efficiently access the benefits they’ve earned may also be forthcoming.

To further assist Gulf War Veterans, VBA Compensation and Pension (C&P) Service has developed two training letters designed to inform and instruct regional office personnel on development and adjudication of disability claims based on Southwest Asia service. Training Letter 10-01, titled Adjudicating Claims Based on Service in the Gulf War and Southwest Asia, was released on February 4, 2010. This training letter provides background information on the Gulf War of 1990-1991, and explains the initial 1994 and subsequent 2001 legislation found in Title 38 United States Code, Section 1117, which was a response to the ill-defined disability patterns experienced by returning Gulf War Veterans. It explains the terms “undiagnosed illness” and “medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness” used in the legislation, and stresses that service connection may be granted for other diagnosed chronic, multisymptom illness in addition to chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome, which are identified as examples in the legislation. It also provides step-by-step procedures for procuring supporting evidence and for rating a disability claim based on Southwest Asia service under Section 3.317 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The training letter includes a separate memorandum to be sent with the VA medical examination request so that examiners are informed of the issues related to qualifying chronic disabilities and better able to evaluate a Gulf War Veteran’s disability pattern.

Additional assistance will be provided in Training Letter 10-02, titled Environmental Hazards in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Military Installations, which is currently in development and will be coordinated with DoD. This training letter provides regional office personnel with information on environmental hazards associated with Gulf War and Southwest Asia service. It discusses airborne toxic substances resulting from the widespread use of burn pit fires to incinerate a variety of waste materials in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as hexavalent chromium contamination at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in Basrah, Iraq, from April through September 2003.

In addition to Southwest Asia environmental hazards, the training letter will provide details of the contaminated drinking water situation at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, from the 1950s to the 1980s . The purpose of this information is to alert regional office personnel to the potential for disability claims based on exposure to any of these environmental hazards. The training letter outlines development and rating procedures for such claims and provides “fact sheets” for VA medical examiners that explain each hazard. We will coordinate with DoD to assure that these fact sheets accurately describe the environmental hazards.

Clinician Education and Training: VHA has historically used a series of clinician training programs, titled Veterans Health Initiative (VHI), to prepare clinician staff to treat Veterans. However, the current programs are unwieldy, information is out-of-date, the format is not user-friendly, and process for updating these training programs lacks agility.

In order to address this training deficit, an interdisciplinary team of VA subject matter experts met on December 8 and 9, 2009, to rewrite and reorganize the Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses training program. This was the first time that such a wide array of policy makers, subject matter experts, and clinicians in the field were brought together to review every facet of a training program. A conference call on December 28, 2009, was held to continue editing the content. A two-day offsite meeting on February 1 and 2, 2010, finalized the content. The training program will be reviewed by the peer review board and undergo the process to ensure it is Section 508 compliant.

And while primary care providers currently do an excellent job of providing patients with work-ups based on symptoms, they do not always have the necessary tools to provide thorough exposure assessments. An initial seminar was developed in August 2009 in conjunction with Mount Sinai Medical Center and the New Jersey War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) to overcome this deficiency.

Lessons learned from prior conflicts, including the 1990-1991 Gulf War, were coupled with the lessons learned at the August 2009 seminar to build more comprehensive training for VA staff. VHA will conduct exportable workshops in exposure evaluation and assessment to update VA clinicians on the unique exposure concerns of returning OEF/OIF Veterans and provide educational and clinical tools for evaluation of exposure risk and the health outcomes relevant to these risks. In addition, in FY 2010, this workshop seminar will be offered as a satellite broadcast available to all VA providers. We will coordinate with DoD on the development of these educational materials.

Ongoing Scientific Reviews: VA recognizes the need to leverage additional resources available to support systematic data collection and review efforts that provide Gulf War Veterans with the highest standard of care.

The VA will continue to support the long-term Institute of Medicine (IOM) scientific reviews of health outcomes related to Veterans’ service in Gulf War combat theaters. VA will seek to improve collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to incorporate Veteran-specific data collection and analyses into three major longitudinal health-related national surveys: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES); National Health Interview Survey (NHIS); and National Immunization Survey (NIS). VA has reached out to DoD to discuss such data collection. We will improve collaboration between DoD and the VA to ensure Veteran-specific data collection and analyses are included in the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS).

To prepare for and address future needs, in June 2009 the VA announced the National Health Study for a New Generation of U.S. Veterans to study the health status of 60,000 Veterans who have separated from active duty, Guard, or Reserves, half of whom served in either Iraq or Afghanistan and half who did not. Women Veterans are being oversampled to permit appropriate comparisons.

Medical Surveillance: DoD has discussed with VA events or situations when Service members may have been exposed to hazardous substances during the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. These possible exposure events include exposure to hexavalent chromium, burn pit smoke, and other contaminants.

A program is being developed for those Veterans who may have been exposed to sodium dichromate while performing duties at Qarmat Ali, Iraq. This model will be used to develop medical surveillance programs for the other exposure events for which medical surveillance is appropriate. We will coordinate with DoD on the development of these medical surveillance programs.

Among Gulf War Veterans, there are known instances where service members were hit by coalition fire and are believed to still have depleted uranium (DU) fragments present in their bodies. The need to monitor the effects of long-term DU exposure still exists. The Depleted Uranium follow-up program was started in 1993 at the Baltimore VA Medical Center (VAMC). This program periodically re-evaluates service members who have known embedded DU fragments. In 2008 the Toxic Embedded Fragment Study Center was established to clinically evaluate all service members with any type of embedded fragment. These programs have been supported by the Division of Biophysical Toxicology at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP). The Joint Pathology Center (JPC), authorized in NDAA 2008, will serve as the new Pathology Reference Center for the federal government providing pathology consultation, education, research, and oversight of the vast Tissue Repository housed at AFIP, which will close in 2011. VA will continue to require the support of the JPC to maintain these vital programs for Veterans with Toxic Embedded Fragments of all kinds.

Research and Development: There has been significant Federal support for research on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses that has answered many epidemiological questions and studied a number of potential biological indicators of illness in Gulf War Veterans. Effective treatments and objective diagnostic tests, however, have not yet been fully adopted by the medical community. This is particularly frustrating to Veterans and their families.

VA is committed to conducting a multi-pronged approach that balances the urgency of understanding and finding new diagnostic tests and treatments for ill Veterans of the 1990-1991 Gulf War with the need to do new studies on a national cohort of Gulf War Veterans. Clinical trials are currently underway to examine new therapies for sleep disturbances and gastrointestinal problems and to test the feasibility of performing cognitive behavioral therapy via telephone. Another major focus of VA’s current research portfolio is to identify biomarkers, or biological indicators, that can distinguish ill Gulf War Veterans from their healthier counterparts.

The VA Office of Research and Development (ORD) issued three new Requests for Applications (RFA) on November 10, 2009, which incorporated more than 80 percent of the research recommendations the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses made in their 2008 report. These RFAs will be re-issued twice a year to regularly request submission of new proposals and revisions of previously reviewed, but not funded, applications. In addition, ORD’s long-term plans include the design of a new study of a National cohort of Gulf War Veterans under the auspices of the VA Cooperative Studies Program, which has extensive experience in developing multi-site VA clinical trials and clinical studies. The design of this new study will include a Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS) and other elements, based on evaluation of the existing body of scientific/clinical knowledge about the illnesses affecting Gulf War Veterans.

The VA commitment to providing the highest standard of care led to a decision to not exercise the two option years of the contract with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW). The decision was based on persistent noncompliance with contract terms and conditions, and numerous performance deficiencies documented by the Office of the Inspector General. Consequently, unobligated funds from the third UTSW contract period will be redirected to other VA-funded Gulf War research projects that are in the same direction as the UTSW research. This includes the VA Medical and Prosthetics Research program which has committed $20 million annually for Gulf War Illnesses research.

Outreach: There is a general lack of engagement on, and knowledge of, the efforts VA is taking to address the issue of Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses. VA needs to improve the delivery of accurate and timely information about Gulf War related ailments to all stakeholders. In general, VA requires a more robust outreach plan to continuously inform eligible Gulf War Veterans about the full compliment of benefits and services they are entitled to, and to provide more complete information to help obtain and use these benefits and services.

In order to develop this plan, VA will solicit key stakeholders for their ideas and concerns. This feedback will be used to develop a communication strategy that improves the level of knowledge within the Veteran community regarding VA modifications to the rating schedule and presumptions related to the Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses. Improving open lines of communication is key in improving the VA responsiveness.

Conclusion

The VA team views this report as a foundation upon which we can collectively build iterative future improvements in the care and services VA delivers by leveraging the lessons learned by this Task Force across the full spectrum of all Veteran communities and their families. This requires a sustained commitment to be transparent and accountable for improving the responsiveness of the organization. These priorities encompass how the VA plans to drive the cultural and institutional change needed to transform it into a 21st century organization.

A centerpiece of transformation is to build a legacy of success and excellence that translates into improved service delivery across the spectrum of benefits and care for Veterans. This requires improving partnerships within VA, with Veterans, with DoD and other external stakeholders. VA looks forward to partnering with all of these groups in implementing the Task Force recommendations and in devising new strategies that shape the future course. In fact, coordination of the draft report is underway with DoD, which will be a major partner in these efforts. To this end, the VA welcomes recommendations and criticisms in the hopes of forming a constructive dialogue that continues to improve services for Veterans.

GULF WAR VETERAN DEATHS DECEMBER 2009

Researched and Written by Denise Nichols

(VeteransToday.com) - It is to each of the veterans of the gulf war that are no longer with us that we the gulf war veterans will never forget. We ask the VA now to set up a Registry of Gulf War Veterans of 1990-91 that have died! We request you honor them now, List them by name, unit, age at death, and cause of death.

Below is the rough listing of not only our gulf war veterans that died in December 2009 but those citizens that
supported the gulf war veterans….

[See Full List]

Ohio Veteran Applauds New Effort To Treat Gulf War Syndrome

Written by Candice Lee | Anchor, Reporter , NBC4i

(COLUMBUS, Ohio – NBC4i) —Thousands of American veterans suffer from Gulf War Syndrome and now the Veterans Affairs Department says it’s re-examining the disability many soldiers blame on their war service.

“We were about 100 kilometers from the boarder. So the biggest threat we had from the intelligence people were the scud missiles,“ remembers Air Force veteran Alan Briggs.

Briggs served 10 years in the military. His tour of the duty during the Gulf War lasted seven months while serving as a communications/navigation systems specialist in Saudi Arabia.

Even before coming home Briggs felt ill. Then a year after returning to the United States his health grew worse.

“I started having problems with weakness, muscle aches and pains. It was harder to maintain my physical training standards,“ said Briggs.

Doctors finally diagnosed Briggs with Gulf War Syndrome. Once out of the military, he entered the Veterans Administration healthcare system. Doctors would find his thyroid tumor destroyed, riddled with benign tumors which eventually led to surgery. But soon after, things at the VA changed.

“They quit talking about it. It’s seems like something came down and said this isn’t established, don’t use this term,“ he said.

Now the government is talking. The Veterans Administration is opening a new chapter on Gulf War Syndrome, armed with almost 20 years of research and annual physicals of thousands of veterans who served during that time.

“If this announcement is a result of hey we’ve got the data now, we think we can figure what this is. How to treat it, that’s good. There’s an expectation that if these kind of things happen they’re going to take care of you,“ stated Briggs.

For additional information, stay with nbc4i.com and NBC 4 and refresh nbc4i.com—Where Accuracy Matters.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Florida Man Welcomes Review of Gulf War Veterans Benefits

Written by Stephanie Hayes and John Barry, St. Petersburg Times Staff Writers

(Tampa, Fl. – St. Petersburg Times ) - Wally Heath — once a Hillsborough sheriff's deputy, once a Navy reserve sailor who hauled heavy equipment in the Middle East — now sits at home in pain.

He takes 19 prescriptions. He has memory loss, chronic fatigue, stomach and sinus problems, muscle aches, vision loss, headaches and infections. Years ago, a doctor told him to prepare to die.

But when it came time for the government to pay, he was told his pain was imaginary. He felt used.

"Like a diaper," said Heath, 62. "They just toss you to the side."

Heath is one of about 200,000 American Gulf War veterans who claim to suffer from mysterious "Gulf War syndrome." Friday, the Veterans Affairs Department vowed to review what could be thousands of those disability claims, opening the door for compensation that many say is two decades late.

"It's about time," Heath said.

The VA will review regulations to ensure veterans get what they were owed under the law. Rejected veterans could then be considered again. Out of 700,000 men and women who served in the war, 300,000 have submitted claims, according to the VA.

Gulf War syndrome is a collection of symptoms — rashes, joint and muscle pain, sleep issues and gastrointestinal problems. Hundreds of millions of dollars have gone toward research, but the cause still isn't clear. Scientists and service people have pointed to pesticides, chemical drops, oil well fires and pyridostigmine bromide pills, which soldiers took to safeguard from nerve gas.

"I took them once," said William Carpenter from Frostproof, a former staff sergeant with the 325th Maintenance Company. "They made me sick. Being a staff sergeant, I was supposed to take them. I didn't. I used a little common sense."

Carpenter, who once trained by running three miles on the sand carrying a backpack of rocks, left the war with muscle pain, breathing problems and memory loss. The VA declared him 60 percent disabled, he said.

"When I got home, I couldn't climb a flight of stairs," he said. "I'll never get well.

He and others testified about their illnesses before the Presidential Advisory Committee in 1996.

"We had people in there with shopping carts full of medicine and bottles and stuff," said Carpenter, 69. "They had a couple guys in there with bags of pills."

With questions lingering, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki appointed a task force. Last week, Shinseki and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. met with several veterans. After the meeting, Rockefeller said a reluctant military or poor record keeping made it hard for veterans to prove they needed help.

Glenn Hertel of Hudson is sure something from the Gulf War caused his bipolar disorder, memory loss and pain. He was a truck driver for the 546th Transport Company and spent a year in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. He took the pills and slept near Iraqi ammunition dumps.

The VA has rated his disability at 40 percent. Hertel, 43, hopes the new review might help him win a 50 percent rating, which would entitle him to more medical coverage. At the least, he said, it might fully identify his illness in his medical records.

"Right now, the records just say I was a Gulf War veteran."

Veterans remain cautious.

"Every so often they say ,'We're going to look into this, look into that. We'll do a study,'" said Heath, who lives in Tampa. "I don't put much hope in my government."

His condition forced an end to his job as a detention deputy in 1994. He got by on $1,000 a month non-service-related disability, church, and help from family. In 2007, he said, the VA granted him full coverage for some of his ailments.

Twelve years after he applied.

 

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8857. John Barry can be reached at jbarry@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2258.

====================

Gulf War Syndrome symptoms

Gulf War Syndrome is a collection of symptoms that generally include fatigue, joint and muscle pain, loss of balance, loss of memory, and rashes. Doctors often liken it to chronic fatigue syndrome, and many believe it is an immune disorder. About 200,000 Gulf War veterans complain of different combinations of the symptoms. One study found that soldiers with the syndrome are more likely to have children with birth defects. It has many suspected causes, including toxic fumes from detonated weapons depots, pyridostigmine bromide pills, which soldiers took to protect them from nerve gases, pesticides, and exposure to depleted uranium munitions. There's no single treatment.

Shinseki's "new stance" on Gulf War Illness


Jim Mitchell/Editorial Writer Bio E-mail  | Suggest a blog topic

(Dallas, Tx. – Dallas Morning News Editorial) - It's never easy to read the intent of the Department of Veterans Affairs, especially when they're talking about "Gulf War illness."

However, this mention from VA secretary Eric Shinseki caught my eye. He's promising a "fresh. bold look" to help vets who complain of Gulf war illness. This supposedly includes training clinic staffers who work with Gulf War vets to make sure that they simply don't tell vets that their symptoms are imaginary. That happened to Viet Nam vets and to Gulf War vets.

"I'm also asking the question, how do we ensure that 20 years from now, that future secretary isn't answering questions about PTSD or TBI, sort of the signature injuries of this war, in the same way that I'm having to look back and try to address these issues," he said.

How this squares with the VA's decision to cut research ties with the UT Southwestern Medical Center is beyond me. Yes, it's good to remove red tape, but shouldn't we also be interested in what might have happened to these guys on the battlefield, which was a focus of the UTSW study. The VA has suggested that it will pursue answers, just not with UTSW. But in addition to research expertise, UTSW had a measure of independence that gave it credibility.

It seems to me that until the key question is answered, treatment will be mostly hit-and-miss and probably marginally effective at best. I'm not sure that moving along the paperwork -- while better than letting it languish in an administrative pit -- gives vets what they need.

A lot of what Shinseki is saying depends on whether vets trust the VA as their ally and continue to see it as an agency primed to deny expensive disability claims. We'll see.

Gulf War vets, advocates wary of government promises; Evaluation--VA leader vows to look into whether claims of veterans have been wrongfully denied.

Written By Matthew D. LaPlante

(Salt Lake City, Utah – Salt Lake Tribune) -- Gulf War veterans suffering from illnesses they blame on their service say the Department of Veterans Affairs has a lot to prove.

In an interview with The Associated Press, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said his department will take a "fresh, bold look" to reconsider whether the disability claims of thousands of sick vets are wrongfully denied.

But after dealing with years of government denial, and nearly two decades in which many former military members have been unable to win compensation for a slew of symptoms often called "Gulf War Illness," advocates say they're not ready to praise the VA for its plan.

"It doesn't do anything just to say you're going to do something," said James Randazzo, commander of the Utah chapter of the Disabled Veterans of America. "If there's one thing I've learned, it is that when the government says it's going to do something, you should wait to see if it actually does it."

James Bunker, who runs the National Gulf War Resource Center, said Shinseki needs to back up his words with new training to change the way claims are evaluated.

"It's not enough just to tell someone, 'We think you might have screwed up before, go back and look at this again,' " he said.

John Gingrich, a retired Army colonel who was tapped by Shinseki to help review the benefits and care provided to Gulf War veterans, said that's just what is going to happen. "We're talking about a culture change," he told the AP.


Advertisement


Janalee Green, who helps veterans file claims at the Veterans Benefits Administration regional office in Salt Lake City, said her office hasn't been given directions on how to implement Shinseki's plan. But Green said she welcomes any new direction that will result in more veterans being compensated for their service-connected illnesses.

"I do hear complaints" from those who feel they have been wrongly denied compensation, Green said.

And the number of those who are experiencing illnesses they believe may be linked to their service continues to grow, she said.

"Just today I had a woman come in," Green said. "She's seen a million different doctors and now she's convinced that this has something to do with her service in the Gulf War."

Tens of thousands of veterans returned from the war suffering from chronic fatigue, heightened chemical sensitivity, skeletal pain, skin rashes and other medical conditions that physicians have been unable to attribute to a single cause. The VA initially denied most claims on that basis.

Last year, a federal panel of medical experts agreed that Gulf War Illness is real and affects at least a quarter of the 700,000 veterans who served in the 1990-91 conflict. But the government still doesn't recognize Gulf War Illness as a compensation-worthy diagnosis. Instead, it is up to sick veterans to establish that each symptom is related to their wartime service.

And that can sometimes make it difficult for veterans like the one Green assisted on Friday to get the compensation they desire.

"We wrote up a claim for her," Green said. "Now we'll see how it goes."

mlaplante@sltrib.com / blogs.sltrib.com/military

Illinois Pledges to Help Gulf War Veterans

Written by Matt Hopf, GateHouse News Service

(SPRINGFIELD, IL. - GateHouse News Service) -- State veterans officials say they will help however possible Gulf War veterans who could get a chance at federal benefits after being denied for illnesses related to their war service.

Many Gulf War veterans were denied benefits initially after displaying signs of "Gulf War illness." Gwen Diehl of the state Department of Veterans' Affairs said Friday that the state will step up after the federal government's announcement of reconsideration.

"We're going to help the veterans open their claims," Diehl said.

The announcement was made at a Capitol memorial service in honor of the 19th anniversary of the cease fire of the Persian Gulf War.

J.D. Young, of Girard, who served with the Army National Guard during the war, was pleased that the VA would take a look at these claims even though he was not affected by the announcement.

"A friend of mine who was in our unit has a lot of nerve problems in his hands," Young said.

Several other members of the unit also developed symptoms, which include rashes, joint and muscle pain, sleep issues and gastrointestinal problems.

First Sgt. Nancy Tieber-Wiles, who served with a MEDEVAC unit in the war, said many people had medical issues after the war.

"I've had a few friends that had medical issues," she said, adding they weren't sure of the cause.

Matt Hopf can be reached at 217-782-3095 or Matt.hopf@sj-r.com.

APNewsBreak: VA to reopen Gulf War vets' files

By KIMBERLY HEFLING, The Associated Press

(WASHINGTON – AP) - The Veterans Affairs Department will re-examine the disability claims of what could be thousands of Gulf War veterans suffering from ailments they blame on their war service, the first step toward potentially compensating them nearly two decades after the war ended.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said the decision is part of a "fresh, bold look" his department is taking to help veterans who have what's commonly called "Gulf War illness" and have long felt the government did little to help them. The VA says it also plans to improve training for medical staff who work with Gulf War vets, to make sure they do not simply tell vets that their symptoms are imaginary - as has happened to many over the years.

"I'm hoping they'll be enthused by the fact that this ... challenges all the assumptions that have been there for 20 years," Shinseki told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.

The changes reflect a significant shift in how the VA may ultimately care for some 700,000 veterans who served in the Gulf War. It also could change how the department handles war-related illness suffered by future veterans, as Shinseki said he wants standards put in place that don't leave veterans waiting decades for answers to what ails them.

The decision comes four months after Shinseki opened the door for as many as 200,000 Vietnam veterans to receive service-related compensation for three illnesses stemming from exposure to the Agent Orange herbicide.

About 175,000 to 210,000 Gulf War veterans have come down with a pattern of symptoms that include rashes, joint and muscle pain, sleep issues and gastrointestinal problems, according to a 2008 congressionally mandated committee that based the estimate on earlier studies.

ad_icon

But what exactly caused the symptoms has long been unanswered. Independent scientists have pointed to pesticide and pyridostigmine bromide pills, given to protect troops from nerve agents, as probable culprits. The 2008 report noted that since 1994, $340 million has been spent on government research into the illness, but little has focused on treatments.

Last week, Shinseki and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs committee, met privately in Charleston, W.Va., with several Gulf War veterans. In an interview after the meeting, Rockefeller told the AP that Shinseki's background as a former Army chief of staff made the changes possible. He said either the military has been reluctant over the years to release paperwork related to the war or kept poor records about exposures in the war zone, which made it harder for the veterans to prove they needed help.

"The paperwork isn't very accurate, but the pain is very real," Rockefeller said.

Shinseki has publicly wondered why today there are still so many unanswered questions about Gulf War illness, as stricken veterans' conditions have only worsened with age.

Last fall, he appointed a task force led by his chief of staff, John Gingrich, a retired Army colonel who commanded a field artillery battalion in the 1991 war, to review benefits and care for Gulf War veterans. The changes stem from the task force's work.

Gingrich said in an interview that he feels a personal stake because some of his own men who were healthy during the war are dealing with these health problems. Gingrich said the VA isn't giving a new benefit to Gulf War veterans, just making sure the claims they submitted were done correctly.

"We're talking about a culture change, that we don't have a single clinician or benefits person saying 'you really don't have Gulf War illness, this is only imaginary' or 'you're really not sick,'" Gingrich said.

A law enacted in 1994 allows the VA to pay compensation to Gulf War veterans with certain chronic disabilities from illnesses the VA could not diagnosis. More than 3,400 Gulf War have qualified for benefits under this category, according to the VA.

The VA says it plans to review how regulations were written to ensure the veterans received the compensation they were entitled to under the law. The VA would then give veterans the opportunity to have a rejected claim reconsidered.

The VA doesn't have an estimate of the number of veterans who may be affected, but it could be in the thousands.

Of those who deployed in the Gulf War, 300,000 submitted claims, according to the VA. About 14 percent were rejected, while the rest received compensation for at least one condition.

Monday, February 22, 2010

RAC Meeting Agenda Released (Tentative)

Meeting of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses -- March 1-2nd, 2010 – at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue, N.W., Room 230, Washington, DC

AGENDA
Monday, March 1, 2010

8:00 – 8:30 Informal gathering, coffee

8:30 – 8:35 Welcome, introductory remarks Mr. Jim Binns, Chairman, Res Adv Cmte Gulf War Illnesses

8:35 – 9:30 Glia --The other brain Dr. Douglas Fields National Institutes of Health (NIH)

9:30 – 10:30 Chronic pain and glia Dr. Linda Watkins
University of Colorado

10:30 – 10:45 Break

10:45 – 11:30 Microtubules and neurodegeneration -  Dr. Peter Baas
Drexel University

11:30 – 12:00 XMRV virus, chronic fatigue Dr. Nancy Klimas and Gulf War illness Miami VAMC

12:00 – 12:30 Planned survey of the health situation of Dr. Vidar Lehmann
Norwegian Gulf War veterans Norwegian Armed Forces Medical Services

12:30 – 1:30 Lunch (on your own)

1:30 - 2:15 UTSW neuroimaging studies update Dr. Robert Haley
University of Texas Southwestern, VA Dallas Healthcare System

2:15 – 3:00 Long-term health effects from sarin Dr. Mariana Morris
exposure Wright State University

3:00 – 3:15 Break

3:15 –4:30 Committee discussion: 2009 annual report Dr. Roberta White and
Committee discussion

4:30 – 5:00 Public comment

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

8:00 – 8:30 Informal gathering, coffee

8:30 – 9:15 War-Related Illness and Injury Centers Dr. Gudrun Lange
(WRIISC) research program update DVA NJ Healthcare System

9:15 – 10:00 Gulf War Veterans Information System Mr. Sterling Stokes
(GWVIS) report and tracking update VA Office of Performance Analysis and Integrity

10:00 – 10:30 Advisory Committee on Gulf War Mr. Steve Smithson
Veterans: Final Report recommendations Res. Adv. Cmte Gulf War Illnesses

10:30 – 10:45 Break

10:45 – 11:45 New VA Gulf War Research Program

  • Dr. Joel Kupersmith, Chief Research and Development Officer
  • Dr. Timothy O’Leary, Deputy Chief Research and Development
    Dr. William Goldberg, Scientific Program Manager GW research,
  • Dept. of Veterans Affairs

11:45 – 12:45 (TENTATIVE)VA Gulf War Task Force Mr. John Gingrich
Chief of Staff, Dept. of Veterans Affairs

12:45- 1:15 Public Comment

1:15 Adjourn

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Col. Jeff Jones, Gulf War veteran Special Operations battalion commander, dies of brain cancer; Will be buried at Arlington

Jeffrey B. Jones

BORN: June 20, 1949  DIED: January 24, 2010


Colonel Jeffrey B. Jones, US Army Retired, passed away on Sunday, January 24, 2010 at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, after a heroic battle with brain cancer.

A 1971 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Jeff served his country in important assignments throughout his 30 year Army career and in civilian roles thereafter. His contributions most impacted national defense in the areas of psychological operations and strategic communications, and he served as Commander of the 8th PSYOP Battalion during Desert Shield and Desert Storm followed by roles in the National Security Council and the Council on Combating Terrorism. In addition, Jeff led 50 officers from 16 nations in Lebanon in the UN Truce Supervision Organization, and he was the Joint Staff Representative on the U.S. Nuclear and Space Negotiations Team in Geneva that conducted arms control negotiations with the former Soviet Union.

His final military assignment was as the U.S. Defense Attaché in Paris, France, where he was credited with helping to improve U.S.-Franco relations.

Even after leaving the government in 2005, Jeff continued to be involved in developing concepts and approaches for strategic communications as a Senior Associate at the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

He is survived by his wife of 31 years, the former Pamela Kettle of Alexandria, along with his mother, Sarah Smith Jones, and his brother, James F. Jones, Jr., both of Hartford, CT.

Friends may gather at the Athenaeum in Old Town Alexandria, 201 Prince Street on Saturday, February 13th, 2010 from 4:00-6:00 p.m. Interment with full military honors will take place at Arlington National Cemetery, Wednesday, May 12, beginning with services at 1:00 p.m. at the Old Post Chapel at Fort Meyer.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Jeff’s name to The Johns Hopkins University Brain Cancer Program, Dr. Blakeley Neuro-Oncology Research and Education Fund, c/o Office of Development, Department of Neurology, 100 N. Charles Street, Suite 401, Baltimore, MD 21201.

Funeral Service:
Wednesday May 12, 2010 1:00 PM
Arlington National Cemetery
Old Post Chapel Arlington, VA

--------------------------

Editor’s note:  Veterans of the 1991 Gulf War exposed to low-level chemical warfare agents at Khamisiyah, Iraq in March 1991 have been shown to have high rates of brain cancer, including compared to other Gulf War troops not exposed..  The plume of chemical warfare agents lasted three days and affected at least 100,000 ground troops, including many Special Operations troops. 

Agents included in the Khamisiyah demolitions included sarin and cyclosarin nerve agents, and may have included mustard gas, a vessicant with radiomimetic (similar to radioactive) properties.

It is a tragedy that the commander of my sister battalion and later my Group commander – an unusually gifted and talented man with many important accomplishments -- is now among those who have suffered this tragic fate.

Today, VA is still doing little to monitor rates of cancers and other serious diagnosed conditions.  And, some key, but entrenched VA bureaucrats still dispute the existence of serious health outcomes among Gulf War veterans, or don’t seem to know what to do about it.

President Obama and VA Secretary Shinseki:  Is change coming for Gulf War veterans?

-Anthony Hardie

Thursday, February 18, 2010

$8 million in FY10 funding available for Gulf War illness researchers

Department of Defense Gulf War Illness Research Program  Funding Opportunities for Fiscal Year 2010

The Fiscal Year 2010 (FY10) Defense Appropriations Act provides $8 million to the Department of Defense Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP) to find and fund the best research to improve the lives of veterans with Gulf War Illness (GWI).

This program is administered by the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command through the Office of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), and includes scientists and affected Gulf War veterans.  The program is funded through an annual earmarked Congressional appropriation through the legislative advocacy of Gulf War veterans and veterans organizations.

The FY10 GWIRP encourages proposals that specifically address critical needs of ill Gulf War veterans in the following areas :

  • Innovative Gulf War Illness research to identify effective treatments, improve definition and diagnosis, and better understand pathobiology and symptoms
  • Research focusing on identification of objective measures to distinguish ill from healthy veterans (e.g. biomarkers), or potential treatment targets for GWI. Studies that characterize chronic effects of neurotoxic exposures encountered during the 1991 Persian Gulf War (at comparable dosages) are also acceptable.
  • NEW for FY10: Proposals must utilize a case definition to distinguish ill Gulf War veterans consistent with the research questions or hypotheses proposed

FY10 GWIRP program announcements and application instructions for the following award mechanisms are anticipated to be posted and available on www.Grants.gov in March 2010.

Funding Award Mechanisms

Consortium Development Award -- Independent investigators at or above the level of Assistant Professor (or equivalent)

  • Funds support establishing multidisciplinary collaborations and developing a plan and budget for a consortium that will focus on research related to GWI
  • Funds may NOT be used to support actual research
  • Funded applicants will be eligible for and expected to compete for a full Consortium Award to be offered in FY11 (assuming funds are available)
  • LOI is required; proposal submission is by invitation only
  • Maximum funding of $200,000 for direct costs for up to a 1-year performance period (plus indirect costs)
  • Anticipate 2 awards

Clinical Trial Award  -- Independent investigators at all academic levels (or equivalent)

  • Fund clinical trials with potential for significant impact on ill GW veterans; Phase II or III for therapy trials, Classes I-III for devices; behavioral or alternative medicine trials as appropriate
  • Preclinical data required for all clinical trial proposals
  • Preproposal is required; proposal submission is by invitation only
  • Maximum funding of $1,500,000 for direct costs (plus indirect costs)
  • Period of performance should not exceed 4 years
  • Anticipate 1 award

Innovative Treatment Evaluation Award (ITEA) -- Independent investigators at all academic levels (or equivalent)

  • Fund small scale, exploratory pilot clinical trials with sound logical reasons for potential impact on ill GW veterans; Phase I, II, or I/II for therapy trials; Class I-III for device trials; behavioral or alternative medicine trials as appropriate
  • Preclinical data is not required
  • Preproposal is required; proposal submission is by invitation only
  • Maximum funding of $450,000 for direct costs (plus indirect costs)
  • Period of performance should not exceed 3 years
  • Anticipate 2 awards

Investigator Initiated Research Award -- Independent investigators at all academic levels (or equivalent)

  • Supports basic and clinical research relevant to GWI
  • Research Strategy and Impact are the most important review criteria
  • Preliminary data is not required, and if provided does not necessarily need to be from the field of GWI. Clinical trials are not permitted.
  • Pre-proposal is required; proposal submission is by invitation only
  • Maximum funding of $600,000 for direct costs (plus indirect costs)
  • Period of performance should not exceed 3 years
  • Anticipate 3 awards

A pre-application is required and must be submitted through the CDMRP eReceipt website (http://cdmrp.org) prior to proposal submission. Proposals must be submitted through the federal government's single-entry portal, Grants.gov. Individual program announcements and required forms will also be found on the Grants.gov website.

Information in this pre-announcement is being provided to allow investigators time to plan and develop proposals. All proposals submitted must conform to the final program announcements, which will be posted on Grants.gov at a later date. The number of awards anticipated in each mechanism is based on available funds, average cost of proposals, and quality of proposals received. The GWIRP reserves the right to make awards in greater or lesser numbers than anticipated. Each program announcement will be available electronically for downloading from the www.Grants.gov or CDMRP website. The application package containing the required forms for each award mechanism will also be found on www.Grants.gov.

Requests for email notification of the release of program announcements may be sent to Help@cdmrp.org. For more information about the GWIRP or other CDMRP-sponsored programs, please visit the CDMRP website (http://cdmrp.army.mil).

Points of Contact:

VA Finalizing Report on Gulf War Veterans

 

(Charleston – WCHS Radio)  - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is busy putting the finishing touches on a report involving veterans with Gulf War Syndrome. During a stop Wednesday afternoon at the Veterans Center on Charleston's West Side, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller discussed the disorder with those suffering from its effects.

"You always learn something when you have that kind of discussion," says Shinseki.

Gulf War Syndrome is believed to be caused by chemical exposure from either a coordinated attack or leaks from chemical weapons housed at the time by Saddam Hussein's regime. The symptoms are numerous and can include memory loss, headaches, loss of muscle control, skin problems, and birth defects.

"Twenty years after the Gulf War we’re still wrestling with debilitating effects, real debilitating effects," Shinseki says.

A Gulf War Taskforce was formed last September to examine these issues and is being chaired by Veterans Affairs Chief of Staff John Gingrich. He says currently his team is asking a number of questions related to this condition and will detail those findings in the final report.

"How the illness has affected them (those exposed), how the illness has affected those around them," Gingrich said.

Gingrich says the final report could help the veterans system deal with similar conditions from those returning from current and future wars. The report on Gulf War Syndrome will be released in two weeks.

3rd Congressional Hearing on Gulf War Illness Scheduled

The third and final Congressional hearing in a three-part series regarding Gulf War illness issues has been scheduled for next week.

The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing, entitled, “Gulf War Illness: The Future for Dissatisfied Veterans,” will be held on Thursday, February 25, 2010, beginning at 10:00 a.m.

The hearing will be held in Room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

It is expected that VA officials and veterans organizations will discuss an internal VA task force on issues affecting veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.

More details, including invitees for testimony, will be forthcoming.

The hearing is open to the public.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Drug May Aid MS Treatment

Multiple Sclerosis is thought by veterans to be more prevalent among veterans of the 1991 Gulf War than others who did not deploy.

MS is a presumptive condition for the purposes of VA service-connection if it develops within seven years following active duty military service.

===============================

(HealthDay News) -- Adding the drug daclizumab to standard treatment with interferon beta may reduce multiple sclerosis disease activity more than interferon beta alone, a new study reports.

Previous non-randomized studies found that daclizumab -- a humanized monoclonal antibody -- reduced MS disease activity.

This new phase 2 study at 51 centers in the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy and Spain included 230 patients with active relapsing MS who were taking interferon beta. They were randomly selected to also receive either high-dose daclizumab (2 milligrams/kilogram every two weeks), low-dose daclizumab (1 milligram/kilogram every four weeks) or an inactive placebo. The combined treatments continued for 24 weeks.

MRI scans of the patients' brains were taken every four weeks between weeks 8 and 24 of the study in order to determine the number of new or enlarged gadolinium contrast-enhancing lesions, which indicate MS disease activity.

By the end of the study, the adjusted mean number of new or enlarged gadolinium contrast-enhancing lesions was 1.32 in the high-dose group (75 patients), 3.58 in the low-dose group (78 patients) and 4.75 in the placebo group (77 patients).

Levels of CD56bright natural killer cells were seven to eight times higher in patients taking daclizumab than in those taking the placebo.

"This study provides confirmatory data that daclizumab treatment causes an expansion of CD56bright natural killer cells and adds support to the theory that expansion of CD56bright natural killer cells might mediate some of the effects of daclizumab on reducing multiple sclerosis lesion activity. In addition to the results of previous trials of daclizumab in multiple sclerosis, several lines of evidence have suggested a potential immunoregulatory function for CD56bright natural killer cells: they are expanded during conditions of natural immune tolerance, for example, pregnancy," the researchers from the Neurovirology Research Laboratory at the VA Medical Center in Salt Lake City, and the University of Utah, reported in a news release.

"This randomized controlled trial indicates that daclizumab can reduce new lesion formation in relapsing multiple sclerosis compared with interferon-beta alone," the researchers concluded. "Multiple sclerosis treatments that have the potential to improve in risk-benefit ratios when compared with available treatments are needed; thus, additional studies to define the long-term clinical risks and benefits of daclizumab are warranted."

The study was released online Feb. 15 in advance of publication in the April issue of The Lancet Neurology.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about multiple sclerosis.

.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New study shows lung cancer at elevated rates in Gulf War veterans

A new scientific study reviewing cancers among veterans of the 1991 Gulf War during the first 15 years after the war, as compared to non-Gulf War veterans, showed elevated rates of lung cancer.

No other cancers were found to be elevated, though it should be noted that the incubation period for many cancers is thought to be later than the 15 year period covered by the study, whose authors note that more follow-up is needed.

The study was conducted using State cancer registry data.

According to the study:

Files obtained from the Defense Manpower Data Center included data for 621,902 veterans who were deployed to the Persian Gulf during the 1990 to 1991 Gulf War (August 2, 1990, to March 1, 1991) and 746,248 non-Gulf War veteran controls.

Identification of veterans who received a cancer diagnosis between 1991 and 2006 was accomplished through record linkage of the Defense Manpower Data Center dataset with files from 28 state cancer registries and the Department of Veterans Affairs Central Cancer Registry.

The study, Investigating the Risk of Cancer in 1990-1991 US Gulf War Veterans With the Use of State Cancer Registry Data, was published in the medical journal Annals of Epidemiology.

The study’s primary author, Dr. Heather Young, is dually appointed at the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, and the Environmental Epidemiology Service of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs. Both are in Washington, DC.

The study abstract is available online.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Upcoming Gulf War Health Research Meeting on March 1-2 in Wash., DC

The next meeting of the Congressionally chartered Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses will be held on March 1st and 2nd in Washington, DC.

The RAC, whose scientist and Gulf War veteran members are appointed by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), meets two to four times each year to review scientific research related to the health of veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.

The March meetings will be held in the Sonny Montgomery Conference Room on the 2nd floor of the central office of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Ave., NW, in Washington, DC. [Map]

The RAC’s meetings are open to the public, and public commentary periods are scheduled during the meetings.   Meeting agendas are posted to the RAC website.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Study shows that CoQ10 deficiency contributes to chronic fatigue symptoms, and supplementation helps

Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes


(91outcomes.blogspot.com) -- A new European study shows that deficiency in Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is related to fatigue, autonomic and neurocognitive symptoms and is another risk factor explaining the early mortality in chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encepholitis (CFS/ME) due to cardiovascular disorder.

The study authors, from the Maes Clinic study (Maes Clinics, Antwerp, Belgium. crc.mh@telenet.be), state that their results suggest that taking CoQ10 supplementation would benefit people suffering from CFS/ME.
Furthermore, they suggest that, “lower CoQ10 is an independent predictor of chronic heart failure (CHF) and mortality due to CHF may explain previous reports that the mean age of ME/CFS patients dying from CHF is 25 years younger than the age of those dying from CHF in the general population.”

People taking drugs containing statins would benefit from taking CoQ10, because statins significantly decrease CoQ10 in the blood, according to the study authors.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is one of three presumptive conditions for VA service-connection for veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.  Chronic fatigue symptoms have been near the top of most lists of scientific studies examining the health of Gulf War veterans.

The study was published in the Swedish medical journal Neuro Endocrinology Letters

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gulf War Veteran to take helm of Montana VA Healthcare System

By the Associated Press

(HELENA – AP) - The VA Montana Healthcare System has announced the appointment of a new director.

Robin Korogi replaces Joe Underkofler, who retired in October after 37 years with the VA.

Korogi is a Desert Storm veteran.

She will oversee the Montana VA and its 1,000 employees. The agency includes 13 outpatient clinics scattered across the state, along with a 30-bed nursing home and a 50-bed hospital.

The Montana VA also plans to break ground on a 24-bed impatient mental-health facility at Fort Harrison next week.

Before her appointment to the VA Montana Healthcare System, Korogi served as associate director at the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System. She has spent 11 years with the Veterans Health Administration.

ATP may increase energy, muscle strength

Adenosine Triphosphate,

the energy of life
by Robert Mason Ph.D

(smart-drugs.net) - Adenosine Triphosphate (pronounced A-den-o-seen Try-foss-fate) or ATP represents the universal energy molecule. In a very real sense ATP is the power behind life. ATP is a nucleotide consisting of adenine, ribose, and a phosphate unit. It is the principal carrier of energy for all forms of life. ATP is estimated to provide 95% for all cellular energy throughout the body.

The Power behind Life

In essence, energy arrives from the Sun, but humans are unable to convert it directly to run metabolic processes. Therefore, we depend on photosynthesis to convert solar energy into chemical storage (in the form of carbohydrate). Through catabolic metabolism, carbohydrate is converted into the energy of ATP.

Nobel Prize

The importance of the role of ATP cannot be overstated. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why in 1997 the Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded to; Dr. John Walker of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, Dr. Paul Boyer of the University of California, Los Angeles and Dr. Jens Skou of the Aarhus University, Denmark for their detailed work on how ATP shuttles energy.

ATP and the Mitochondria

ATP is created inside cells called mitochondria. The mitochondria can be found in every cell of every organ, but they are perhaps “hardest at work” inside the brain. This isn’t a surprise considering that the brain utilizes approximately 20% of the body’s oxygen and 50% of the sugars we ingest in its ever constant demand for energy.

The Dangers of ATP Production Problems

The brain is unable to store ATP and the mitochondria are unable to “share” ATP from other organs mitochondria. It is estimated that the demands for a resting human are 40Kg (88 Lbs.) of ATP per 24-hours! During strenuous activity this demand increases to 500g (1.1 Lbs.) per minute! 

Yet while ATP serves as the energy current for all cells, its quantity is very limited. In fact, only about 70mg of ATP is stored in the body at any one time! Therefore, during strenuous activity, such as sprinting, ATP supplies would last for no more than 5 to 8 seconds! 

It becomes immediately apparent that ATP must be constantly and effectively synthesized to provide a continuous supply of energy. When an interruption of the energy producing substances (such as oxygen or blood carrying nutrients) occurs, (e.g. heart attack or stroke) that as the production of ATP is effected a cascade of free-radical damage begins. 

Recent research indicates that it may be an ATP-imbalance, (the result of damage to the neuronal support [glial] cells, or to the mitochondria themselves under ischemic and hypoxic conditions such as those mentioned above) that leads to increased neuronal cell death. 

However, even “minor” oxygen and blood starvation events, such as those that may not appear serious but may be attributed to an aging condition, could lead directly to temporally lobe epilepsy (a mild form of epilepsy).  

Furthermore, we can consider that such events also have a consequence for the onset of multiple sclerosis itself. 

ATP and Disorders

Around the world ATP supplements have been and are being used in all the following conditions: 

1. Acrocyanosis: (Discoloration of hands and feet due to poor circulation).

2. Acroparaesthesiae: (Tingling in hands and feet).

3. Asthma: (In general).

4. Back Pain: (Particularly mild lower back pain).

5. Cardiology: (Spasms related to the coronary arteries and thrombosis of peripheral vessels. And as a preventative for potential heart attack).

6. Chronic Asthenia: (Accompanied or not by low blood pressure, genital and senile asthenia, stress).

7. Circulatory Alterations: (In general).

8. Convalescence: (Following operations and of seriously ill patients).

9. Dermatology: (Atopic dermatitis, chronic and acute eczema).

10. Diabetes: (As a coadjutant in the treatment of diabetic arteriopathies).

11. Ear Problems: (Ménière's Disease, Tinnitus [ringing in the ears], deafness due to nerves, deafness due to streptomycin).

12. Endocrinology: (In general).

13. Geriatrics: (Improve well being and energy).

14. Gynecology: (Particularly alterations due to spasms of the uterine muscle).

15. Itching: (In general).

16. Neurology: (As a coadjutant in the treatment of extended sclerosis and other neurological lesions and related to muscular dystrophy’s).

17. Nutrition: (In general).

18. Ophthalmology: (Strained eyesight).

19. Poisoning: (In general).

20. Raynaud's Disease: (Blanching of the fingers and toes).

21. Rheumatism: (In general).

22. Sports Medicine: (Training, physical strain, fatigue of all kinds).

23. Surgery: (Prior to and following surgery to prevent anoxia).

ATP and Aging

The body’s ATP production declines as we age. the size, volume, and number of the mitochondria alter during age. As the mitochondria produce ATP, an abundance of free radicals are generated. Free radicals over a life-time damage cellular components which of course leads to decreased efficiency.

Conclusion

Whilst the authors could find no clinical studies to support ATP supplementation and aging, there is no doubt that ATP is a vital component of life.

It appears to be a logical step that ATP supplementation can aid and assist in improving energy levels and help support conditions such as chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis and similar disorders where neuronal glial cells and mitochondria are especially at-risk.

We’ve heard from a number of patients and health professionals that sublingual or injectable ATP supplementation can be highly beneficial for those who feel permanently weak, tired, or lack energy (i.e. chronic fatigue).

Dosages, Side Effects and Contraindications

It is noted that patients with either pulmonary hypertension or myocardial infarction should not use ATP if the disease is in its acute phase.

ATP appears to be a very safe and satisfactory supplement

Whilst dosages have to be altered according to the age and condition of the patient and the desired result, it is generally considered that the following dosages are effective in 90% of cases:

By injection: 2-4 c.c. daily by deep intramuscular injection (or by intravenous injection when dissolved in a glucose serum).

By sublingual absorption (under the tongue): 30mg to 90mg per day taken in three divided doses (i.e. 10-30mg three times per day). It is important to ensure that the product is absorbed through the mouth membranes and not swallowed.

References

  1. Cotrina ML, Lin JH, Lopez-Garcia JC, Naus CC, Nedergaard M, ATP mediated glial signaling, Journal Neurosci. 2000 Apr. 15;20(8): 2835-44.
  2. Kunz WS, Kudin AP, Vielhaber S, Blumcke I, Zuschratter W, Scramm J, Beck H, Elger CE, Mitochondrial complex I deficiency in the epileptic focus of patients with temporal lobe epilepsy, Ann. Neurosci. 2000 Nov; 48(5) 766-73.

  3. Verweij BH, Muizelaar JP, Vinas FC, Peterson PL, Xiong Y, Lee CP, Impaired cerebral mitochondrial function after traumatic brain injury in humans, J. Neurosurg. 2000 Nov; 93(5): 815-20.

  4. Anderson E, You scratch my back and I will synthesize adenosine triphosphate by means of oxidative phosphorylation.

  5. Adenosine Triphosphate, Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia, 2000.
  6. Atepodin, manufacturers insert 1999.
  7. Chemistry in Britain, November 1999.
  8. Database of the Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm.
  9. Database of the Oxford University, England.
  10. Skou J, Aarhus University, Denmark.
  11. Walker J, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Medical Research Council, Cambridge, England.

  12. Boyer P, University of California, Los Angeles, USA.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

VCS calls for Real Change at VA for Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans

Prepared Oral Comments, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Hearing on VA’s 2011 Budget

By Paul Sullivan, Executive Director, Veterans for Common Sense

February 4, 2010

Chairman Filner, Ranking Member Buyer, and members of the Committee, thank you for inviting Veterans for Common Sense to testify about the Department of Veterans Affairs’ proposed budget for 2011.

VCS strongly endorses President Obama’s $125 billion VA budget, especially the new $300 million in funding to end homelessness by the end of 2014.

However, we do have some concerns about two cohorts of veterans: first, our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and, second, our Gulf War veterans.

VCS urges Congress to require VA to develop more accurate casualty estimates as well as implement a long-range strategic casualty plan.

As of June 2009, VA reported 480,000 veteran patients and 442,000 disability claims from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  This is far above any worst case scenario for casualties. 
VA treats nearly 9,000 new patients per month from the two wars.  For VA’s 2012 budget, VA estimated less than 500,000 patients.  A more realistic estimate for 2012, based on VA data, is as high as 800,000 new patients and claims from Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

One factor that may increase healthcare use and claims activity is multiple deployments, as Stanford University researchers estimated 35 percent of new war veterans may return with post traumatic stress disorder - PTSD.

VA’s failure to accurately forecast demand is serious because one-in-four patients wait more than one month to see a doctor.  According to the Veterans Benefits Administration, more than one million veterans are now waiting 161 days for an initial answer for a disability claim.

We are alarmed VA’s 2011 budget request shows VBA taking a staggering 190 days to process an initial claim.  That’s one more month of waiting for our veterans.

While we support hiring additional VBA staff to process the one-million claim backlog, VBA must also work smarter.  VCS urges Congress to fund development of a one-page claim form plus new, simpler regulations VBA staff can learn in six months, not the two-to-three years currently required.  VCS urges Congress to fund a specific program to implement the proposed lifetime electronic record to end the epidemic of lost and difficult-to-find military service and military medical records.

VCS supports the Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2008 as a strong move by Congress to improve quality at VBA.  We urge Congress to hold accountable those VBA leaders who openly flaunted the law by failing to provide several reports and implement sections of the new law designed to overhaul VBA’s broken claims system.

Specifically, VBA has not created temporary disability rating systems or reports required under Title II, Modernization of VA’s Disability Compensation System, Subtitle A, Benefits Matters, Section 211.

VCS remains deeply concerned that funding for the Board of Veterans Appeals only increased three percent when there is a backlog of 200,000 unprocessed appeals, and where veterans wait four years for a decision.

VCS also urges Congress to fund full-time, permanent VBA claims staff at every military discharge location plus every VHA medical center and clinic.

Here are some VCS budget recommendations for our Gulf War veterans.

First, VCS urges Congress to create and fund a robust Gulf War veteran advocacy committee to provide advice directly to VA Secretary Shinseki on Gulf War illness, treatments, and benefits.

Second, VCS urges Congress to fully fund the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, that identifies “off the shelf” treatments.

Third, VCS encourages VA to restore funding for Dr. Robert Haley’s research at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.  VA’s IG confirms that VA Central Office employees “impeded the ability of the contracting officers . . . to effectively administer the contract.”  In our view, a few VA staff sabotaged Dr. Haley’s research.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, you are correct that VBA’s Veterans Benefits Management System is nothing more than a new name for several existing broken VBA computer systems.

Disney has Pixar studios, and James Cameron has his movie Avatar that thought outside the box.  VCS urges Congress to fund a high-priority task force to overhaul VBA immediately, from application to payment and access to healthcare

Essentially, if the VBA claims process can be described as a bridge, then the current one-lane obsolete wooden structure lacks the capacity to handle the millions of veterans now using it.  There are traffic jams trying to cross, and veterans constantly fall over the side or through the cracks and plunge into the icy waters below.

An entirely new concrete and steel high-capacity bridge needs to be built as a replacement.  The more time spent adding timber, changing the name, and applying paint to the wooden bridge only means more delays for our veterans seeking healthcare and benefits.

Thank you.  I will be glad to answer your questions.

VVA Calls for More VA Focus on Gulf War Veterans

Vietnam Veterans of America (www.VVA.org), whose motto is “Never again shall one generation of veterans abandon another,” joined the call at this week’s HVAC (House Veterans’ Affairs Committee) hearing on Obama Administration’s proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Testimony by Rick Weidman, VVA’s Government Relations Director, called for more research into health conditions affecting Vietnam War and post-Vietnam war veterans, including those of the 1991 Gulf War:

Research

VVA calls for an increased outlay for Research and Development.  Traumatic Brain Injuries, or TBI, needs to be better understood for treatment to be more effective.  Other mental health issues, too, that are afflicting too many of our returning troops, need to be better understood.  Research, for which VA scientists and epidemiologists can be justifiably proud, benefit not only troops who are forever changed by their experiences in combat but the general populace as well. VVVA believes that we must become more serious about research at the VA, given that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) continues to totally ignore veterans and the long term health effects of military service. Other than one head injury study, we know of no other NIH research project that even tangentially asks about military service and uses that as a variable (and possible confounder). VVA recommends that Research & Development be provided at least $ 750 million for FY 2010 and commensurately large increases in the out years, so that over five years this activity is funded at least at the $1 Billion level.

For the first time in many years, VVA has NOT signed on to the Friends of VA Health Care & Medical Research (FOVA) although we strongly believe that there needs to be a significant increase in R&D funding. VVA did not sign on to FOVA because of a required pledge not to push for any earmarks in Research & Development funds. It would be irresponsible of VVA to sign this pledge and not seek ear marks given that we have been unable to discover ANY research programs into the long term health effects of Agent Orange and other toxins, despite repeated inquiries to the current Undersecretary for Health and the current occupant of the office of Director of Research & Development, as well as the previous two occupants of the office of Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Obviously we need ear marks for research into the environmental wounds of Vietnam, as well as into the deleterious health effects of service in other periods of time and theaters of operation, such as the first Gulf War. It would be a betrayal of our members and their families if we did not urgently seek ear marks for further research into the terrible health long term effects of exposure to the herbicides and other toxins (including pesticides, PCBs, etc.) used in Vietnam during the war.

VVA’s public testimony also called for longitudinal studies  for Vietnam War and post-Vietnam war cohorts.  Longitudinal studies are intended to monitor and measure health over a long period of time for the emergence of similar health conditions, which then might be able to be diagnosed and treated with enough time to make a difference.

This lack of such research projects is compounded by VHA’s adamant refusal to obey the law and complete the replication of the “National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study” (NVVRS) as a robust mortality and morbidity study from the only existing statistically valid random sample of Vietnam veterans in existence. Frankly, this study in needed not only to document the long term course of post traumatic stress disorder, but also to document physiological problems in this population (which we know to be many). Their refusal says a great deal about their bias and determinedly continued willful ignorance.

Mr. Chairman, VVA thanks this Committee and the Appropriations Committee for using the power of the purse in the FY 2008 and FY2009 Appropriations act to compel VA to obey the law (Public Law 106-419) and conduct the long-delayed National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study. VVA asks that you schedule a hearing and/or a Members briefing for the second half of March for VA to outline their plan as to how they are going to complete this much needed study for delivery of the final results to the Congress by April 1, 2010, as a comprehensive mortality and morbidity study of Vietnam veterans, the last large cohort of combat veterans prior to those now serving in OIF/OEF.

VVA is concerned that previous leadership at VA felt they were above the law and ignored this mandate, and were unapologetic about being scofflaws. We hope this provision will again be included in the Appropriations act and that General Shinseki will see to it that VA obeys the law and gets this done on his watch.

Further, VVA strongly urges the Congress to mandate and fund longitudinal studies to begin virtually immediately, using the exact same methodology as the NVVRS, for the following cohorts: a) Gulf War of 1991; b) Operation Iraqi Freedom; and, c) Operation Enduring Freedom.

Please take action now so that these young veterans are not placed into the same predicament Vietnam veterans find themselves today.

VCS’s Common Sense Congressional Advocacy for Gulf War Veterans

Statement About Gulf War Illnesses by Veterans for Common Sense

Paul Sullivan, Executive Director

November 4, 2009

Veterans for Common Sense (www.VCS.org) thanks Subcommittee Chairman Mitchell, Ranking Member Roe, and members of the Subcommittee for inviting us to testify about improving government policies involving Gulf War veterans.

Founded by Gulf War veterans in 2002, VCS is a non-profit 501(c)3. VCS and our members provide advocacy and publicity about policies related to veterans’ healthcare, veterans’ disability benefits, national security, and civil liberties.

Nearly 700,000 Gulf War veterans deployed to Southwest Asia in 1990 and 1991. The human and financial costs of our war continue rising. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports 300,000 of us sought medical care and a similar number filed disability claims. VA spends $4.3 billion per year for our medical care and benefits.

VA and VA's Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illness (RAC) agree as many as 210,000 Gulf War veterans suffer from multi-symptom illness. VA’s RAC and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) both agree the exposures and illnesses are real.

According to VA’s Gulf War Veterans Information System (GWVIS), 13,000 veterans filed claims seeking disability compensation and healthcare for one or more Undiagnosed (UDX) condition. According to VA’s Gulf War Review, 3,400 received disability compensation for UDX. Unfortunately, there are no effective treatments.

Veterans for Common Sense is encouraged by VA’s comments during the May 19, 2009, hearing, “… Secretary [Eric Shinseki] has charged us to transform VA’s process for determination of presumptive service connection into one that is based on good science, is substantially faster and makes VA an advocate for our Veterans.” Seeking to build on this forward momentum, VCS provided VA with a six-point plan to address our needs on August 2, 2009. Today, VCS provides the Subcommittee with seven urgently needed changes to policy, research, treatment, and benefits for our Gulf War veterans.

The first government policy that must change is Presidential Review Directive 5, adopted in August 1998, with a goal of “minimizing or preventing of future post-conflict health concerns.” The best policy solution would be for President Barack Obama to order a revision of PRD-5, with input from Gulf War veterans, so the official U.S. policy declares Gulf War illness is serious public health issue and a long-term cost of war.

Second, VA must improve its culture. Last month, panelists on VA’s Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans wrote, “The VA system itself presents an impediment to care and services.” Improving VA culture starts when VA consolidates Gulf War related activities within VA into a single office so Gulf War illness remains a high-profile and high-priority issue. Similarly, the Department of Defense (DoD) must improve, too.

During a recent military health conference in Kansas City, Kelley Brix, representing DoD’s Health Affairs, dismissed Gulf War illness as stress-related. The best policy would be for DoD to work with Congress and fully fund DoD’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). The CDMRP is a highly effective approach to identifying effective “off the shelf” treatments for our ailing Gulf War veterans.

Third, VA must listen to independent experts and veterans’ advocates. VA must review and respond to the November 2008 report issued by the RAC with an eye toward granting disability benefits for conditions associated with Gulf War deployment and exposure, as allowed by the “Persian Gulf Veterans Act of 1998” (PL 105-277 and PL 105-368). Similarly, VCS supports the recommendations made in September 2009 by VA’s Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans – with the exception that Gulf War veterans’ needs should be addressed separately from veterans of other conflicts.

Congress should restore our access to Priority Group 6 medical care that expired in 2002. Congress should also remove the expiration date for our UDX disability benefits. Since the Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans has expired, Congress should charter a successor committee to provide advocacy on behalf of Gulf War veterans, with authority to review VA’s handling of disability claims, including UDX claims.

Fourth, VA must launch an aggressive outreach effort to educate our veterans and their families about healthcare and benefits. VA should resume publishing the “Gulf War Review” and add Gulf War veterans to the review process. VA should contact all the Gulf War veterans denied benefits under the 1994 UDX benefits law (PL 103-446) who may now be eligible under the expanded 2001 UDX benefits law (PL 107-103).

Fifth, the largest obstacle reported by every panel investigating Gulf War illness remains the lack of objective and consistent data collection and research by VA and DoD. The lack of information about toxic exposures hampers our access to treatment and benefits. In order to obtain more salient exposure and research data, Congress and VA should support research at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center by converting the current contract into a grant in order to preserve already completed research. VA and DoD should start more research into the adverse health consequences of toxic exposures, especially depleted uranium.

Sixth, on April 2, 2009, VA published a statement in the Federal Register that VA intends to publish regulations linking nine diseases with deployment to the Gulf War. VCS urges VA to promulgate those regulations as soon as possible.

Seventh, VA should resume publishing and distributing GWVIS reports, as required by a 1992 law (PL 102-585). GWVIS should be expanded to include expenditures for all VA healthcare and benefit programs. VA should report information about the combined degree of disability for service-connected veterans as well as lists of the most frequent medical diagnoses and disabilities, and VA should provide more robust information about UDX claims, such as the grant and denial rate for each condition, including the percentage rating, sorted by each VBA office. GWVIS reports and data sets are essential tools for monitoring the post-war activity of Gulf War veterans.

In conclusion, Veterans for Common Sense commends this Subcommittee for your strong and sustained interest in the needs and concerns of our Gulf War veterans. VCS hopes to continue working with Congress, VA, and DoD to make sure our Gulf War veterans receive access to prompt and high-quality healthcare and disability benefits.