American Legion National Commander Clarence Hill commended the secretary of Veterans Affairs for the work of an internal task force that reviewed the agency's approach and practices in addressing the unique health-care needs of Gulf War veterans. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has announced release of a final draft report from the task force's interdisciplinary panel of experts. It will be published in the Federal Register this week.
Research consistently indicates that of the nearly 700,000 veterans who served in the 1990-91 war, more than 25 to 32 percent are suffering from a complex of multiple symptoms, variously defined, over and above rates found in their contemporaries who did not serve in the Gulf War theater of operations.
Reacting to news of the report's release, Hill said, "The nearly 100-page draft report and the work it reflects will certainly help to assure our Gulf War veterans that they have not been forgotten and that even though nearly 20 years have passed, their government is still working hard to address their health concerns and needs."
According to VA, this comprehensive review, which was initiated by Shinseki in August 2009, reflects, in his view, a cultural and institutional change within the department as it transforms into a 21st century organization that is people-centric, results-driven and forward-thinking. The task force's overall mission, says Shinseki, was to identify gaps in services and develop action plans with the goal of meeting the needs of Gulf War veterans and improving their level of satisfaction with VA services.
The main areas addressed in the report, for which specific recommendations and action plans were provided, include partnerships, benefits, clinician education and training, ongoing scientific reviews and population-based surveillance, enhanced medical surveillance of potential hazardous exposures, research and development, and outreach.
"The American Legion has closely monitored VA's Gulf War programs and services since 1991, and my staff provided information and comment to the task force during its review," Hill said. "We are eager to thoroughly review the report and we are optimistic that our major concerns have been addressed."