"This report leaves no room for doubt that Gulf War Syndrome is real and that veterans are suffering because of exposures during the first Gulf War," Murray said. "We need to do two things. First, the VA must keep faith with these veterans and provide the healthcare and benefits they deserve. Second, the Department of Defense needs to learn from the past and screen today's service members before and after deployment to Gulf."
The report, issued this week by the Institute of Medicine, found that Gulf War veterans report higher levels of illnesses and have higher rates of disease than other veterans. The report noted that in the first Gulf War, the DoD failed to adequately screen service members and track exposures. That failure, the report concluded, complicated efforts to help injured veterans. Senator Murray wants to make sure the Pentagon does not repeat those mistakes in the current Gulf conflict.
"According to the VA, 32 percent of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan being seen by the VA are reporting 'ill-defined symptoms.' That means that once again we have a large number of troops coming home with unknown illnesses that could be related to battlefield exposures. The Pentagon needs to begin screening today's service members and tracking exposures, so that our service members and veterans can get the care they need," Murray said.
Among the report's findings:
"Every study reviewed by this committee found that veterans of the Gulf War reported higher rates of nearly all symptoms examined than their nondeployed counterparts."
"In many studies, investigators found a higher prevalence not only of individual symptoms but also of chronic multisymptom illnesses among Gulf War-deployed veterans than among the nondeployed. Multisymptom-based medical conditions reported to occur more frequently among deployed Gulf War veterans include fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)."
"The difficultly in obtaining meaningful answers, as noted by numerous past Institute of Medicine committees and the present committee agrees, is due largely to inadequate predeployment and postdeployment screening and medical examinations, and lack of monitoring of possible exposures of deployed personnel."
The report, titled "Gulf War and Health: Volume 4. Health Effects of Serving in the Gulf War," is available at http://www.iom.edu
Murray is a longtime advocate for America's veterans. She is the first woman to serve on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. In August 1997, at Senator Murray's request, the Committee held a hearing in Washington state to hear from veterans of the first Gulf War. Murray also brought the VA Secretary to Washington state to meet with veterans affected by Gulf War Syndrome.
Senator Murray has introduced legislation to give presumptive disability to veterans with Multiple Sclerosis to help veterans with MS get healthcare benefits from the VA.
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