The Department of Veterans Affairs has approved $2.8 million to fund three new research projects that focus on testing or developing new treatments for illnesses affecting veterans who served in the Gulf War from 1990-1991. The research incorporates recommendations of the department's Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses Task Force.
About 697,000 men and women served in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm from August 1990 to June 1991 during the Gulf War. In the years since they returned, nearly a quarter of these veterans have experienced chronic symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, gastrointestinal problems, cognitive dysfunction, sleep disturbances, persistent headaches, skin rashes, respiratory conditions and mood changes. The symptoms are known collectively as Gulf War veterans' illnesses.
A recent report by the Institute of Medicine's Committee on Gulf War and Health, "Health Effects of Serving in the Gulf War," noted that chronic multi-symptom illnesses affect an estimated 250,000 Gulf War veterans. Given the findings, VA is embarking on a national Gulf War veterans' illness research program to identify and adopt the most effective treatments for veterans.
"Last February, we welcomed (VA Secretary Eric) Shinseki's decision to take a serious look at the disability claims of Gulf War veterans," said Clarence Hill, national commander of The American Legion. "Now that VA is following through with these important studies of Gulf War illness, which has plagued many of the 700,000 Gulf War veterans for nearly 20 years, The American Legion believes these studies should provide a shared foundation for those veterans who need to be cared for and compensated for their disabilities."
The first $700,000 will be available Oct. 1, 2010, the beginning of fiscal year 2011.
The studies are expected to take between two to five years to complete, and include:
The IOM report noted that the illnesses seen in Gulf War veterans cannot be ascribed to any psychiatric disorder and likely result from genetic and environmental factors, although the data are not strong enough to draw conclusions about specific causes.