Saturday, May 10, 2014

OREGONIAN: Oregon senators join call for increased research into Gulf War illnesses

SOURCE:  The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.


Oregon senators join call for increased research into Gulf War illnesses

Senator Merkley 2.jpg
Portlander Peter Greene, left, with fellow Gulf War veteran Glenn Stewart, discuss the need for further research into Gulf War Illness with Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. (Courtesy of Peter Greene)
Mike Francis | mfrancis@oregonian.comBy Mike Francis | 
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on May 08, 2014 at 7:56 AM, updated May 09, 2014 at 9:18 AM
Peter Greene, 54, says the ailments he suffers
from his military service during the First Gulf War make it hard for him to walk the bus stop near his Northeast Portland home. But he and nine other Gulf War veterans recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., where they attended hearings and lobbied members of Congress to support medical research into Gulf War illnesses.
Greene was two-for-two in his efforts to add the signatures of Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to a letter calling for increased funding into the causes and treatments for Gulf War Illness. In all 11 senators asked their colleagues on a Defense subcommittee to commit $25 million to the effort this year.

The veterans attended a two-day meeting of the Department of Veterans Affairs Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, which heard about findings of recent research into the causes of the ailments. Researchers told the VA panel they have improved their understanding of the physiological effects of wartime exposure to toxins and other contaminants. And their report identifies some promising paths toward treatment of the 250,000 or so military veterans afflicted by some Gulf War illnesses.

(Read: Gulf War Veterans illness report.pdf)

Gulf War veterans have argued for years that their exposures to smoke from oil well fires, pesticides, toxic chemicals and military-issued anti-nerve gas drugs caused many of them to contract illnesses. In 2010, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said the agency would presume certain veterans suffering from nine specific diseases, from brucellosis to West Nile Virus, contracted the ailments because they served in the Gulf War.

Greene says he is afflicted with abdominal cramps, rashes, blurred vision, insomnia,  cognitive problems and other issues he believes stems from his service as an Army helicopter pilot. And he says his health care providers at the VA and elsewhere have "little to no understanding" of how to treat ill Gulf War veterans.

"My health has been declining over the last 20 years," he said this week. And he said it's important to continue funding research into the causes and treatments of Gulf War illnesses for the next generation of veterans who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

-Mike Francis

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