Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gulf War Syndrome is Real and in Many Cases Explained by Chemical Exposure

The ArmyTimes reported in a story entitled, Review says chemicals caused Gulf War illness, today that a scientist’s review of the symptoms presented by many returning veterans can be explained by chemical families related to those found in pesticides, nerve agents and anti-nerve agents. Tens of thousands of troops were denied treatment, denied disabilities and identified as slackers after suffering a chemical insult.

The travesty is that as early as 1992 scientists and medical officers from within and without the US military strongly suspected that chemical insult was the cause of these reported maladies. The DoD and the VA should be held accountable for the mistreatment of our service members following the first Gulf War. There is no register of those who suffered chemical insult from that war and many more veterans will suffer unexplained debilitating neurological illnesses or explicable neurological illness early in life. It is unlikely that they will either find care or compensation if they were not identified in the early 90’s.

This issue is relevant because the DoD and VA are at it again. During OIF and OEF, tens of thousands troops were and are being exposed to blastwave concussion resulting from IED’s (roadside bombs) used to attack our troops. These injuries were dismissed for years as nothing more than concussion resulting from playing contact sports. The DoD elected to ignore its own experts who identified these wounds as serious in nature and as the signature injury of these conflicts. To great fanfare, $600MM was set aside to research and treat these injuries six years after the problem was identified. Regrettably the DoD and VA have used these funds for ill-considered research, outmoded instruments and pet projects of senior officials of Medcom. The result is that rather than using systems and technologies that were requested by field medical officers as early as December 2002 to screen and track neurological traumas in real-time, the nation lacks even a basic system to validity screen and analyze these injuries. While the DoD and VA deserve the bulk of the blame, Congress, the Senate, and Veterans Organizations all deserve a share of the blame because their lack of action has led to gross mistreatment of those that have served us.

Fifteen years from now we will suddenly awake to thousands of veterans suffering from debilitating neurological illness that could have been avoided or compensated for if someone had bothered to consult and support efforts by experts in the military and not the people who brought us the mistreatment of troops at Walter Reed.

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