News Releases

Senator Murray Helps Lead VA Committee Hearing on Gulf War Veterans' Illness

Sep 25 2007

Murray hears moving testimony from Washington state veteran about her struggle with Gulf War related health problems

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) helped lead an important Senate Veterans' Affairs' (VA) Committee hearing on Gulf War veterans' illness.  Senator Murray requested the hearing to focus on the latest research and treatment for Gulf War veterans' illness.  There are still many unanswered questions about Gulf War illness, and Senator Murray is using her position as a senior member of the Senate VA Committee to make sure Gulf War veterans receive the care they need.

"It has been 16 years since the first Gulf War ended, and while for many Americans the conflict is nothing more than a distant memory, it remains a source of continuous anguish for thousands of veterans of that period who now suffer from chronic multi-symptom illness," Murray stated.

Among the witnesses who testified was Julie Mock, a Washington state veteran and President of the Veterans of Modern Warfare.  Julie provided poignant testimony on her and her family's struggles with medical conditions resulting from her deployment to the Persian Gulf.  

During the months of January, February and March 1991, we repeatedly experienced the loud alarms of chemical detectors," Mock testified.  "We ingested expired pyrostigmine bromide tablets; we wore gas masks with expired filters, inhaled dust and sand in the air that was thick with the black of burning oil. I experienced respiratory difficulties, my skin grew hot with red rashes and I began to suffer from debilitating headaches. Many of my contemporaries experienced many of the same, or a combination of these symptoms."

Transcript of Julie Mock's full testimony

Senator Murray's Opening Statement:

Mr. Chairman, I want to start by thanking you for holding today’s hearing on the latest research and treatment taking place for Gulf War veterans’ illness.

I want to recognize our first panel of witnesses who are here today and who have dedicated so much of their time to fighting for veterans inflicted with Gulf War illness. I want to especially thank Julie Mock, who is from my home state of Washington and is President of the Veterans of Modern Warfare. Despite her ill health and the disorders and diseases her children struggle with, Julie flew all the way across the country to testify about how Gulf War illness has affected her and her family. Julie will also speak about the need for more research, better treatment and improved access for ill Gulf War veterans. Julie is putting a face and a story to the numbers we will hear about today and is speaking out for so many who couldn’t be here, and for that, we thank you.

It has been 16 years since the first Gulf War ended, and while for many Americans the conflict is nothing more than a distant memory, it remains a source of continuous anguish for thousands of veterans of that period who now suffer from chronic multi-symptom illness.

This committee has held numerous hearings on Gulf War illness over the years, beginning in 1993. These hearings explored the latest research and probed the possible causes of Gulf War illness. Since that time, our understanding of medicine has evolved, technology has improved, and more about the war has been uncovered. Yet the exact nature and cause of Gulf War illness remains disputed by many. What isn’t disputed is that of the nearly 700,000 U.S. service members who served in the Gulf War, approximately 30 percent suffer from chronic multi-symptom illness.

These veterans deserve to know that everything is being done to identify and connect all possible exposures to their illnesses. They need to know that their illnesses will be treated by the VA, and they need to know that every effort is being made to ensure that what happened to them will never happen to future generations of our warriors. 

Today’s hearing is an opportunity to discuss the latest research and treatment options, and to question whether current efforts are sufficient for improving the lives of veterans inflicted with Gulf War illness, or if more needs to be done.

It has been said that those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it, and I think it is with those words in mind that we are holding today’s hearing.

With more than 160,000 troops currently stationed in Iraq we must ensure that we are studying the lasting effects of the last time Americans were sent there.

We must never forget the lessons Vietnam and the horrors of Agent Orange exposure taught us -- It is our responsibility to be proactive about the health and well-being of our men and women in uniform. Today we have the opportunity to examine a disease and a group of veterans who are too often overlooked. I look forward to hearing from all of our witnesses and I thank them all for coming forward to address this problem. 

Thank you Mr. Chairman.