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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

USA TODAY: VA Works to Improve GWI Treatment, but Cuts Funding...


This news comes on the heels of news the U.S. Senate appropriations committee voted to eliminate the DoD CDMRP Gulf War Illness Research Program.         --Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes Publisher/Editor 


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VA works to improve treatment of Gulf illness

WASHINGTON – Twenty years after the end of the Persian Gulf War, the Department of Veterans Affairs plans to standardize and improve treatment for the one of four veterans who suffer from a multisymptom illness that could have been caused by environmental exposures.
  • Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki says lessons will be applied to "veterans of all eras."
    By H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY
    Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki says lessons will be applied to "veterans of all eras."

By H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki says lessons will be applied to "veterans of all eras."

The VA has created a pilot program starting this week inSalt Lake City aimed specifically at caring for Gulf Warveterans, and it vowed to improve training, data collection, research and communication for that group.
The department will distribute pocket cards explaining symptoms and possible exposures to medical staff.
The VA has created two positions in the Office of Research and Development to deal with health-related issues possibly arising from the Gulf War or other deployments.
A report, released by the VA's Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses Task Force, lays out a proposed plan to address veterans' concerns.
"This report provides a road map for our continued enhancements in our care and services we provide to Gulf War veterans," VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement. "We will be applying lessons learned from this report to veterans of all eras."
The proposal comes after years of research that mistakenly pointed to stress as the cause of symptoms such as chronic fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pain, chronic diarrhea and mysterious rashes.
Last year, the VA issued a 32-page training letter documenting possible environmental exposures found during the Persian Gulf War and in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan that could result in troops' illness.
Those exposures included burn pits that consumed as much as 240 tons of trash a day, particulate matter from dust storms and carcinogenic chemicals left behind by Iraqi troops.
Recent research has shown a connection between Gulf War veterans who used pesticides and anti-nerve-agent pills to veterans who have higher rates of Gulf War illness.
"As a Gulf War veteran, I'm glad that our issues are still on the table," said Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a veterans advocacy group. "With the dust, the oil fires and the burn pits, it's just a given that some people are going to have a stronger reaction."
Davis commended the VA for being "light years" away from how it responded to ill veterans 20 years ago.
Recent research has shown that veterans' symptoms resemble those of rats exposed to nerve agents and pesticides.
A recent study showed that some vets' symptoms responded positively to treatment with the antioxidant coenzyme Q10.
Researcher Beatrice Golomb of the University of California-San Diego said she expects more good news for potential treatments within the year.
Davis said he expects that research, as well as the proposed changes at the VA, will further help change the mindset of people who discount the disease.
However, the new VA report doesn't suggest any new research and shows that Gulf War illness funding dropped from $41 million in 2001 to $17 million in 2010.
The report quotes from a 2009 Institute of Medicine study that called for "a renewed research effort with substantial commitment to well-organized efforts to better identify and treat multi-symptom illness in Gulf War veterans."

Monday, October 24, 2011

VA Releases Draft Gulf War Task Force Report, **SEEKS VETERAN FEEDBACK**

Draft Gulf War Task Force Report Is Released

VA Says Report "Redefines How Care and Services Are Provided
to Gulf War Veterans"


WASHINGTON (Oct. 21, 2011)- Today, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki announced that the Department's Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses
Task Force has completed the draft of a comprehensive report that will
outline how the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) addresses the
concerns of Veterans who deployed during the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991.
"This report provides a roadmap for our continued enhancements in our
care and services we provide to Gulf War Veterans," said Shinseki. "We
will be applying lessons learned from this report to Veterans of all
eras."

Notification of the draft written report is published in the Federal
Register, and the draft written report addresses seven areas where VA
provides services for this group of Veterans.

Over the past year, the task force has examined, evaluated, designated
and adjusted the initial roadmap outlined in last year's report. VA has
designated steps to improve care and services to Gulf War I Veterans and
these improvements are becoming a part of our culture and operations.

This year's report focuses on improvements in the delivery of health
care for Gulf War Veterans. One of the most substantial additions is
modifications to clinical care models used for Gulf War Veterans, which
is the most critical point of service VA provides. There are better
linkages between specialty knowledge and services at the basic point of
care. Clinical research and development is significantly contributing
new concepts and methods to clinical practice and clinical education
throughout VA.

Two new positions were established in the Office of Research and
Development for deployment and Desert Shield and Desert Storm
health-related issues. Both positions have been filled and are enhancing
research efforts for Gulf War Veterans and will continue to do so in the
coming years.

VA is also strengthening partnerships and medical surveillance to
address the potential health impacts on Veterans from the environmental
exposures on today's battlefield. Additionally, VA continues to use
social media to improve communication with Gulf War Veterans.

The Chairman of the Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses Task Force is John R.
Gingrich, chief of staff at VA, a retired Army officer who also served
in the Gulf War.

"To ensure we are tracking the needs of our Veterans, we want to get
feedback from Gulf War Veterans on this draft report," said Gingrich.
"Their feedback is critical to our efforts to understand and serve their
specific needs. Therefore, we hope they take advantage of one of the
different opportunities to provide feedback that we have created for
them."

As a first step, VA is seeking public comments on the draft written
report before final publication. The public notice and instructions for
how to submit electronic and comments via postal mail will be posted at
www.regulations.gov<http://www.regulations.gov>, and the draft written
report will be open for comment for 30 days.



 In addition, VA recognizes
that a great number of Gulf War Veterans use the Internet on a daily
basis to share their ideas and concerns, so VA has also created a public
discussion board on the seven recommendations at:
http://vagulfwartaskforce.uservoice.com/



To view the report without
making recommendations, please visit VA's website at
http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/Draft_2011_GWVI-TF_Report.pdf.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

USA Today Responds: Gulf War Illness Treatment Funding at Risk


Vets touched by Gulf War illness fret over research funds

WASHINGTON – A congressional move to shift control of the flow of money to research a mysterious Gulf War illness has alarmed veterans of that conflict who fear the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments have little interest in uncovering the true causes of their ailments.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders told USA TODAY, "We are still looking for what may have caused so many servicemembers to become ill while trying to identify the most effective treatment to address the symptoms."
    By Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images
    Sen. Bernie Sanders told USA TODAY, "We are still looking for what may have caused so many servicemembers to become ill while trying to identify the most effective treatment to address the symptoms."
By Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images
Sen. Bernie Sanders told USA TODAY, "We are still looking for what may have caused so many servicemembers to become ill while trying to identify the most effective treatment to address the symptoms."
"In its short history, the program has funded more trials of promising treatments than all other government programs combined in the 20 years since these troops came home sick," said Jim Binns, chairman of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses. "It is by far the best hope to improve their health and to prevent similar illnesses in current and future conflicts."
In the past, Binns said, VA research focused on the mental health issues of veterans of the 1991 Gulf War, while the Defense Department stopped funding research on Gulf War illness several years ago. Now, the Defense Department's Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) exists only because Congress designates money to the Defense Department budget each year to study Gulf War illness.
But on Sept. 15, the Senate voted to exclude the program from next year's Defense Appropriations Act, while the House, after a last-ditch amendment from Rep.Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, voted to fund it with $10 million.
So far, CDMRP funding has included a study that showed coenzyme Q10 appeared to relieve some Gulf veterans' symptoms. Another recent study funded by the program connected where veterans served with what environmental exposures might have caused their symptoms.
"It is critical that this program be funded in the final Defense appropriations bill in order to continue the research that has already seen significant gains," Kucinich told USA TODAY.
On the Senate side, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also pushed for funding, telling USA TODAY, "We are still looking for what may have caused so many servicemembers to become ill while trying to identify the most effective treatment to address the symptoms."
Steve Robertson, Sanders' senior legislative assistant, said Congress is under intense pressure to cut the budget. "I think everyone's interested in doing what's best for the veterans," he said.
About one-fourth of the 700,000 veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War developed symptoms that include chronic headaches, widespread pain, memory and concentration problems, persistent fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, skin abnormalities and mood disturbances.
"(This research has) had the only success we've seen so far for Gulf War veterans," said Anthony Hardie, a Gulf war veteran who has been a consumer reviewer for the program since 2006.