Thursday, February 27, 2014

VA Releasing 3rd Gulf War Task Force Report for Public Comment



The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is releasing its third Gulf War Task Force report for public comment tomorrow.


Below is VA's prepared "Fact Sheet" about the Task Force.


To date, VA has failed to adopt almost every recommendation made in response to VA's previous requests for public comments to earlier Task Force reports, including that that the Task Force meetings be made public and that ill Gulf War veterans serve on it.  


Resubmitting your prior recommendations until VA officials listen is encouraged.


As but one example from the VA "Fact Sheet" below:

"VA also recognizes the importance of studying other conditions that may affect Gulf War Veterans, such as brain cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS), and multiple sclerosis. ORD maintains very active research portfolios in each of these areas, with the aim of improving life for Veterans of any era who may be affected." 
...except that VA continues to violate the law mandating they contract with the Institute of Medicine to determine the prevalence of MS in 1991 Gulf War, OIF, and OEF veterans...  See p. 1, and Appendix E:  http://www.va.gov/RAC-GWVI/docs/Committee_Documents/CommitteeDocJune2012.pdf

...and VA has yet to do anything about the RAC's repeated findings regarding very high brain cancer rates in 1991 Gulf War veterans, first when it was found to be double among Khamisiyah cohort veterans, and again when it was found to be triple. 

...and despite years of evidence of dramatically increased rates of ALS in 1991 Gulf War veterans, VA merely granted a presumptive for service-connected disability compensation, which is of little comfort to those suffering from this almost always fatal, terrible disease.  VA could've learned a great deal from this outbreak of ALS among young 1991 Gulf War veterans, but there's no evidence VA has yet begun to try to do so.

The quotes in the VA "Fact Sheet" are just empty words from VA's Public Relations office, with no action to back them up and prove that they're true -- which they're not.


It's high time VA be held accountable, and for veteran "leaders" to hold them to doing what's right instead of echoing empty PR spin while veterans continue to suffer and die from these terrible neurological diseases, at least some of which are far more prevalent among veterans of the 1991 Gulf War. 

-A.H.  


***


 Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses Task Force 
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 
Fact Sheet 
February 2014 

Summary: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes and respects the service, dedication and many challenges faced by Veterans of the 1990-1991 Gulf War, and is committed to continuing improvements in care and services for Gulf War Veterans through initiatives outlined in the 2012-13 GWVI Task Force Report. 

VA agrees that there are health issues associated with service in the Gulf War, and is committed to ensuring Gulf War Veterans have access to the care and benefits they have earned and deserve. VA is clear in our commitment to treating these health issues and does not support the notion some have put forward that these health symptoms arise as a result of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other mental health issues that arose as a result of being deployed. 

Research on the health of Gulf War Veterans has been and continues to be a priority for VA. VA appreciates members of the Research Advisory Committee (RAC) for Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses, and the valuable advice they provide to the Secretary on research studies, plans, and strategies aimed at improving our ability to serve Gulf War Veterans. 

Twenty three years have passed since the start of the deployment and combat operations known as Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. These two military operations comprise the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Since then, many Veterans of that conflict have endured adverse health consequences. 

In 2009, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs directed the formation of the Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses Task Force (GWVI-TF) to coalesce VA efforts to address the needs of these Veterans. In 2010, the VA recognized nine new diseases as associated with service in Gulf War If one of these diseases is diagnosed in a Veteran with service in the Gulf War, VA presumes that the circumstances of his/her service caused the condition, and disability compensation can be awarded. 

VA continues to provide health care and benefits to the Veterans of Gulf War and remains committed to improving care and services for Gulf War Veterans through initiatives outlined in the 2012-13 GWVI Task Force Report. The report focuses on efforts to improve the delivery of health care for Gulf War Veterans, including the launch of a prototype clinical care model that is a Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) specifically targeted to Gulf War Veterans. The report also addresses education of health care providers about Gulf War Veterans’ concerns, benefits for Veterans, communications, and outreach, scientific reviews and surveillance, and research and development. 

Key Facts: 

• VA agrees that there are health issues associated with service in the Gulf War, and is committed to ensuring Gulf War Veterans have access to the care and benefits they have earned and deserve. VA is clear in our commitment to treating these health issues and does not support the notion some have put forward that these health symptoms arise as a result of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other mental health issues that arose as a result of being deployed. 

• VA’s War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) locations in Washington, DC, East Orange, NJ, and Palo Alto, CA, were established in 2001 (DC and NJ) and 2008 (CA) to provide clinical care, education and research in the area of deployment health. The WRIISC continues to provide clinical programs focused on providing environmental exposure assessments and comprehensive medical evaluations for Veterans who have chronic, medically unexplained symptoms and/or difficult to diagnose symptoms that they believe are related to their deployment. The WRIISC also provides post-deployment health education to Veterans, families and loved ones of deployed Veterans, health care providers, and the general public. The WRIISC research program focuses on improving the health of deployed Veterans by researching innovative treatments designed to improve the health of deployed Veterans. 

• VA also recognizes the importance of studying other conditions that may affect Gulf War Veterans, such as brain cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS), and multiple sclerosis. ORD maintains very active research portfolios in each of these areas, with the aim of improving life for Veterans of any era who may be affected. 

• In 2010, the VA recognized nine new diseases as associated with service in Gulf War If one of these diseases is diagnosed in a Veteran with service in the Gulf War, VA presumes that the circumstances of his/her service caused the condition, and disability compensation can be awarded. These nine new diseases (listed below) can also be found at www.publichealth.va.gov/expposures/gulfwar/infectious diseases.asp

• Malaria 
• Brucellosis 
• Campylobacter Jejuni 
• Coxiella Burnetii (Q Fever) 
• Mycobacterium Tuberculosis 
• Non-Typhoid Salmonella 
• Shigella 
• Visceral Leishmaniasis 
• West Nile Virus 

Most of the above diseases must manifest at 10 percent disabling within one year of the end of qualifying Gulf War service to be presumptively service connected. Only Leishmaniasis and Tuberculosis can manifest at 10 percent disabling at any time after qualifying Gulf War service and still be presumptively service connected. 

• VA is continuing to improve care and services for Gulf War Veterans through initiatives outlined in the 2012-13 GWVI Task Force Report. • The report focuses on efforts to improve the delivery of health care for Gulf War Veterans, including the launch of a prototype clinical care model that is a Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) specifically targeted to Gulf War Veterans. 

• The report also addresses education of VA health care providers about Gulf War Veterans’ concerns, benefits for Veterans, communications, and outreach, scientific reviews and surveillance, and research and development. 

• VA asked for comments from Veterans, and has reviewed over 450 of them, incorporating suggestions and comments into the report.


1 comment:

Peter Greene said...

If this report is anything like I expect, they may well regret encouraging us to make comments. It will likely take some time and discussion to pull apart the upcoming report, separating the wheat from the chaff. If the report is typical of recent VA responses, it will be nothing more than window dressing to show the administration is at least taking some form of action.

From an epidemiological standpoint, the VA has failed miserably in collecting and categorizing illness data that could have given researchers clues many, many years ago while the evidence was still fresh. More importantly, they could have established the legitimacy of Gulf War Illness, particularly its neurological effects, before the public consciousness dismissed the illness as another "it's in your head" problem, an opinion that was spurred by the early dismissal of the disease by a misinformed medical community.