The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

December 2002
NATIONAL GULF WAR RESOURCE CENTER REPORT
   
 

Is Past Prologue?

BY STEVE ROBINSON, DIRECTOR

As of January 2002, more than 307,000 out of 567,000 eligible veterans (54 percent) who served in the first year of the Gulf War have sought medical treatment from the VA. More than 198,000 (35 percent) have filed a disability claim. By DoD's own admission, it has failed Gulf War veterans miserably.

Here's how:

Poor medical record keeping, before, during, and after deployment; lack of unit location information; lack of environmental monitoring (i.e., oil well fire pollution); lack of accurate chemical and biological agent monitoring; lack of predictive analysis and consideration of downwind hazards resulting from bombing Iraqi manufacture, storage, and forward deployment locations; lack of knowledge on the effect and use of investigational new drugs and vaccines; poor enforcement of and adherence to pesticides use; and lack of training and exposure documentation for depleted uranium.

The mistakes of 1991 are still present today.

Lessons learned from the 1991 Gulf War were supposed to address the problems of today’s soldiers. The DoD and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) developed a plan, Force Health Protection (FHP), that would prevent an event like Gulf War Syndrome from ever occurring again. FHP requires DoD to conduct a series of physical tests on soldiers before, during and after deployment to a war zone. It also requires DoD to maintain extensive data. But after repeated questions from veterans groups and Congress, DoD admitted it has failed to implement many key FHP sections.

Two recently introduced bills, S. 2704 and HR. 5060, calling for full disclosure of military exposures, are reasonable attempts to establish an oversight mechanism that will protect service members and veterans and allow information to flow both ways. The Veterans Right to Know Act of 2002 would mandate the declassification of Pentagon records detailing chemical and biological weapons testing on American veterans and demand that any future exposures fall under an automatic review outside of DoD .

   

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