Veterans Group Releases
Report On Gulf War Health Issues
by Patrick G. Eddington
High Incidents of Serious Illnesses Among Veterans Are Likely a Result of
Toxic Exposures During Desert Storm
EMBARGOED UNTIL JANUARY 17, 2001
Washington, D.C -- A national veteran's organization today released a blistering report on the status of ailing Desert Storm veterans and the federal government's failure to adequately address their medical problems.
"The executive branch has repeatedly denigrated or ignored private sector and other non-federal research efforts that have consistently found evidence of real illnesses among these veterans," said Patrick G. Eddington, executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center. "It's past time for the federal government to shift its research dollars away from the hidebound Pentagon/VA medical community and into channels that have gotten results."
Titled "Uncounted Casualties: America's Ailing Gulf War Veterans," the NGWRC report charges that:
- The Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses (OSAGWI) has squandered nearly $200 million over a four-year period largely in an effort to disprove the existence of illnesses among Desert Storm veterans. OSAGWI's "Case Narrative" reports on potential toxic exposure incidents have been replete with demonstrable analytical and factual flaws, resulting in a waste of taxpayer resources and providing a false impression to the veterans, Congress, and the media that potentially harmful exposures were fewer in number than the available evidence suggests.
- Existing DoD/DVA medical research programs are by and large medically and scientifically useless, overly focused on ill-defined population-based studies that squander precious research dollars better spent on private sector medical research initiatives that have shown real progress in identifying disease or disability in ailing Gulf War veterans, such as the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center's GWI neurological research program.
- DoD and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) continue to withhold more than 1 million documents with a potential bearing on the health and welfare of ailing GW vets. Moreover, recent legislation has resulted in whole categories of intelligence community records being exempted from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, further inhibiting a search for potential toxic exposures among Gulf War veterans.
- DoD officials charged with overseeing GWI-related research continue to harass or otherwise impede non-governmental researchers attempting to explore novel or previously inadequately researched medical theories of the causalities and possible treatment protocols for ailing Gulf War veterans.
To correct the medical, operational, and information access problems that have marked the Gulf War and its aftermath, NGWRC believes that:
- Congress should reprogram funds allocated to GWS research away from methodologically flawed or scientifically dubious DoD/DVA medical research programs (including all examining stress) into private sector or state-run medical research initiatives (overseen by an independent body, including veterans' service organizations) that have shown results or that are viewed as scientifically promising.
- Congress should codify the IOM's medical monitoring recommendations (contained in their October, 2000 report).
- Congress must also examine the DVA's pattern of denying compensation to ill GW vets on the basis of incorrect or incomplete diagnoses that violate the spirit -- if the not the letter -- of the law governing "undiagnosed illness" claims. Finally, Congress must indefinitely extend the presumptive period for the development of Gulf War-related illness, as some forms of exposure (such as depleted uranium) may not produce illness until years after the exposure event.
- Both Congressional Government Reform and Oversight Committees should rigorously examine existing legislation passed to restrict the release of intelligence community operational records with an eye towards reducing government secrecy as it pertains to operational and intelligence records that have even an indirect bearing on the health and welfare of existing and future generations of veterans.
The report is available on the web at http://www.ngwrc.org.
"We call upon the administration to make a fresh, productive start with Gulf War veterans by addressing their core concerns: effective medical treatment for their ailments and genuine truth-telling about the likely causes of Gulf War illness," Eddington said. "Our veterans have earned no less."
The National Gulf War Resource Center is a nonprofit advocacy agency serving the needs of the veteran and military communities.