View Full Version : Vets urge more action on Gulf War syndrome

09-17-07, 03:20 PM
Vets urge more action on Gulf War syndrome
By Rick Maze - rmaze@militarytimes.com
Posted : September 24, 2007

A group of Persian Gulf War veterans told House lawmakers they feel overlooked with all of the focus on benefits and treatment for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some veterans of Operation Desert Storm, the 1991 war to force Iraqi invaders out of Kuwait, have given up on the Department of Veterans Affairs and are seeking private care or not seeking treatment for what they believe are war-related disabilities.

“I have heard from countless other Gulf War veterans who, like many Vietnam veterans before them, have stopped going to the VA or have simply given up and have done their best to adapt to the substantial lifestyle changes required by their disabilities,” Army veteran Anthony Hardie said.

Hardie, who continues to suffer from the so-called “Kuwait cough” that started after he breathed in the smoke from oil fires in the Gulf War, was one of the witnesses at a July 25 hearing of the House Veterans’ Affairs health subcommittee.

He said VA is still seeing Gulf War veterans who have undiagnosed problems, but “being seen is not the same thing as being treated.”

Retired Air Force Reserve Maj. Montra Denise Nichols, a registered nurse who said she saw the beginning signs of the mysterious Gulf War syndrome while deployed with her aeromedical evacuation group along the border between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, also said veterans are being overlooked.

Despite promises from VA to provide research, treatment, support groups and a patient registry, sharing of the latest research among doctors has declined to the point that many veterans feel they must educate their own doctors.

Nichols called it “unacceptable for ill patients who look to their doctors for relief to have to bring in stacks of research that shows the direction the physicians should be examining.”

Another Gulf War veteran, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Mikolajcik, said the failure to do more could end up hurting new generations of veterans.

Mikolajcik was diagnosed in 2003 with the usually fatal amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He said a 2001 study shows Gulf War veterans are twice as likely to have ALS as the general population, and a 2005 study found all veterans, dating back to World War II, have an ALS rate 1.6 times that of the general population.

The cause and possible link to military service is unknown, he conceded, but he urged Congress to do more in terms of research and treatment.

Dr. Lawrence Deyton, VA’s chief public health and environmental hazards officer, said VA is researching ALS and also looking for a possible treatment.

“Several VA investigators are conducting research on ALS as it is related to military service during the first Gulf War,” he said.