Our Sustained Commitment to Care for Gulf War Veterans

Twenty-three years have passed since the start of the deployment and combat operations known as Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. These two military operations comprise the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Since then, many Veterans of that conflict have suffered from adverse health consequences.

We’ve come a long way in recognizing the illnesses suffered by Gulf War Veterans, and we have rejected the notion the symptoms result from mental health issues like post-traumatic stress.

That’s why in the years following the first Gulf War, VA has continued to provide quality healthcare and benefits to those Veterans, and to invest in research to understand and treat Gulf War Veterans Illnesses, including Chronic Multi-Symptom Illness and related health areas. In 2009, Secretary Shinseki directed the formation of the VA Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses Task Force, previously led by former Chief of Staff and Gulf War Veteran John Gingrich, to better synchronize department-wide efforts to serve Gulf War Veterans. The VA’s Interim Chief of Staff, Mr. Jose Riojas, also a Gulf War Veteran, continues this work.

The Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (RAC) has led the way on crucial initiatives ever since. As a result of their work, VA has more than doubled the number of requested research projects on specific Gulf War areas of study. Additionally, VA has funded all proposals for Gulf War research that have met scientific and quality merit review standards. We’ve done that by increasing R&D funding directly obligated for Gulf War research to $7.3 million this year —a nearly $2 million boost from 2011.

In 2010, Secretary Shinseki recognized nine new diseases as associated with Gulf War service, reflecting a determination of positive association between service in the region and those diseases.

VA has relied on the RAC to provide expert advice to the Secretary on optimizing VA’s Gulf War research portfolio. The most technological and current scientific tools are being deployed to better understand these complex illnesses. Recently approved research initiatives include investigations regarding biomarkers, imaging diagnostics, and clinical treatment trials, which have come from committee recommendations. The Committee’s work has been invaluable to bring these issues to light and ensure they are high priorities within the Department from the top down.

As the Committee has matured, changes were made to the RAC ‘s charter to align it with similar VA charters in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act and the requirements of Public Law 105-368, § 104, for example Women Veterans and the Rural Health Advisory Committees.  VA completed a departmental review of the charter in October 2012. One notable issue was that membership terms have expired so there will be also a rotation of some Committee members.  Chairman James Binns has been asked to stay for another year to help in the transition of new members and oversee the completion of the RAC’s major scientific review, a critical report that assists VA in setting Gulf War research priorities.

Make no mistake—the momentum the Committee has achieved to bring sweeping and lasting change to the research and treatment of Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses will not falter. We have turned a corner on this issue, and there is simply no going back. VA is continuing efforts to be responsive to the Committee’s recommendations by increasing senior leadership engagement between the RAC Chairman, myself and Dr. Madhu Agarwal, Assistant Deputy Undersecretary for Health for Policy and Services.

VA knows we must continue the progress we’ve made together for our Gulf War Veterans. We must ensure every Gulf War Veteran is aware of the disability and health care benefits to which they may be entitled as the result of their wartime service and to assist them in accessing these services.

Since its inception, the RAC has been the catalyst for change and unquestionably guided VA to deliver on its core mission to care for our Nation’s Veterans. They have my greatest confidence in continuing that mission, and we look forward to working with them to achieve our mutual goals.

For more information, read VA’s recently released Gulf War Research Strategic Plan and the Task Force’s Draft annual report.

Dr. Robert Jesse is the Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Health at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

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36 Comments to “Our Sustained Commitment to Care for Gulf War Veterans”

  1. Juan says:

    Over the years VA are calling us liers, saying that this damn illness We carry are in Our heads, some of you after seat on desk with air condition or heater go home thinking about the next bonus you will recieve, while We were out pulling guard duty rain, snow, heat, pollution you name it at the same pay, 12 years begging for bennefits and went to the BVA to be approve what you VA for years are denying, all of you that are taking your time to deny Our claim remember this “what goes around comes around”

  2. Hello,

    I find it disturbing that the US Veterans Affairs suddenly realized that Congressionally Chartered Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (RAC) members service period had “expired”–the RAC committee has been active for many years. Also, a need for “rotation” seems to be as sudden. Finally, the Veterans Affairs already has a group, Gulf War Illness Task force, that is a part of the Veterans Affairs, so why does the Veterans Affairs feel a need to remove the RAC independence?

    I, for one, took the time to read the scathing June 2012 RAC document that drew attention to Veterans Affairs incompetence regarding 1991 Gulf War Illness research, funding, leadership, etc[1].

    I find it quite odd that the Veterans Affairs wants to replace RAC members and Committee Chair, Mr. James Binns. In your own blog, you have discussed their successes. With that said, I explain my concerns more fully in a CNN iReport[2]. Will I lose my 100% IU disability status because of my critique? After the recent Veterans Affairs decisions regarding the RAC, I would not be surprised. Dr. Coughlin, Epidemiologist and recent Veterans Affairs Whistle-blower, stated that retaliation was common within Veterans Affairs Leadership.

    I provide many RAC quotes, June 2012 document, and a few Dr. Coughlin whistle-blower quotes in the CNN iReport[2].

    As a side note, is the Veterans Affairs even aware of recent 1991 Gulf War research? Was the first time of awareness at the recent, June 17-18, RAC meeting?

    Finally, I am glad the Interm Chief of Staff, Mr. Riojas, is a Gulf War veteran. Does he suffer from 1991 Gulf War illness? That is a very important point. Remember, approximately 1 in 3 suffer. If he does not suffer, that does not mean that approximately 250,000 are malingers. Sadly, many 1991 Gulf War veterans believe that has been the Veterans Affairs past stance.

    References:

    [1] Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses. Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses Findings and Recommendation, June 2012. va.gov[online]. 2012. Available from: http://www.va.gov/RAC-GWVI/docs/Committee_Documents/CommitteeDocJune2012.pdf

    [2] Harding, Chris. Is Secretary Shinseki Playing Politics With 1991 Gulf War Veterans And Their Health?, June 13, 2013. ireport.cnn.com[online]. 2013. Available from: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-988088

  3. Hello,

    In addition to my previous comment, I would like to make the following comment as well.

    The Veterans Affairs is a large organization. There are some good people there too. In fact, my life was saved by the Veterans Affairs. Still, we must tackle incompetence when we see it. If not, many people can be harmed. In the veterans case, it can lead to homelessness, suicide, suffering, or a combination of all.

    The RAC June 2012 report also recognizes that there are some good people at the Veterans Affairs.

  4. Is this information being passed onto the Providers? I was in that conflict and have many of the medical problems reported. My post Gulf War physical was done by a Physician that ignored my stated symptoms and even documented the total opposite of what I placed on the questionaire. My Primary Care doctor in the VA treats me like I’m crazy and lying about my symptoms and therefore under treats them and actually treats me rather rudely whenever I try to discuss them. I was rated 100% disabled by the the stateI live in but continue to await decision by the VA. I have been a Registered Nurse for 30 years, but I’m forbidden to work (except in extremelly low paying and limited types of jobs) due to the laws of the state that determined my disability. My fear is that if and/or when the VA completes my request for compensation, that they will have the same lack of knowledge as the VA medical community, causing me to live out my life in constant pain, etc, and now at under the poverty level after giving @ 9 active duty years to my countrythese committees and research are great, but I wonder if they have actually helped anybody who was in any of the campaigns, because I haven’t seen it. All of the people getting special concentrated help in the OIF/OEF programs were in the same villages as me (and I left the military in 1994), but for some reason they receive services and assistance that I am denied. I believe those of us who served in and around 1991 in the war region are still being ignored and suffering due to the lack of knowledge and compassion for our issues. Committees and studies are great, but not if they don’t reach those that so desperately need the help and continue to try and survive each day, on our own, with little hope after 22 years of committees.

  5. DL says:

    I am not sure that the VA actually understands what the Gulf War Veterans are facing. It took so many years to get just the simple things recognized from the first Gulf War like insomnia for one, irritable bowel syndrome, just to name a couple, but even though I went and had the VA Exam when I got out of the Army in 1993, it didn’t seem to make much difference when I told them I was very close to the burning oil wells and soot went everywhere. I wanted to move away from them, but the battalion commander wouldn’t ask the brigade if we could move. Go to 2003 and burn pits in Afghanistan causing respiratory illnesses and diseases, which may have been brought on by earlier lung damage in Desert Storm, and one gets Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), but the connection has not been made by the VA, even though I have pointed it out. Then they don’t consider the two bouts of pneumonia I had back to back as being caused by COPD, which I find very odd and hard to understand when you have a respiratory disease and you get a respiratory illness like pneumonia, if you have a weakened respiratory system, you are at greater risk of contracting a respiratory infection. I have some illnesses/diseases that I contracted while in the military and yet the military won’t recognize them, even though no one else in my family has these specific diseases or illnesses, so if it isn’t genetic, it must be environmental. Ya Think? I find it odd that even when doctors point it out in your military medical records that you have it and it is very unusual for my sex and my age, they don’t treat you or even tell you that you have this serious, silent disease. Both the VA and the Army knew and never told me and never treated me and I get sent to Afghanistan with very brittle bones where even a fall or sneeze could shatter a vertebra or other bones in my body. The VA comes back and tells me it’s not service-connected. I spent close to 11 years in the Army and about 4 years of it was out in the woods or the desert. I had no choice as to what I got to eat. I had to eat what the Army gave me to eat or go hungry. No one in my family has osteoporosis and my Dad got osteopenia when he was 67, so it is not hereditary since no one in my family has it. It must have been environmental and from too much time in the field, the water quality at Fort Polk, Louisiana and the radioactive fallout all over Europe from Chernobyl, which could have caused thyroid and other health problems and being in Desert Storm with the variety of environmental health hazards faced there, it…

  6. Stefani Ceballos says:

    There is absolutely no sustained or any other type of commitment to Care for Gulf War Veterans. The very same day that the results of the PLOS One Study showing that Gulf War Syndrome is not an idiopathic, undiagnosed illness but, in fact, brain damage hit the Associated Press. Secretary Shineski announced his intentions to gut the Gulf War R.A.C. – a little retaliation there? He espouses the use of eBenefits as the best way to submit claims. However, when the system isn’t “down for maintenance”, it is completely non-functional. My profile has not been updated since February.

    And even though I submitted DBQ’s for most of my conditions, my doctor’s insistence that my generalized anxiety is a result of PTSD – the simple act of clarifying the condition on my claim sent it back to square one.

    I received a response from ISIS last week that it would be at least 8 months before they would be able to look at my claim and then what, another 2 or 3 years for a C&P examination? I have waited for 22 years for any benefits – can you honestly tell me, Secretary Shineski, that you actually care about Gulf War Veterans or are you just continuing the tradition of bold-face lies that the VA has become so adept at telling the soldiers that put their lives on the line for this country?

  7. Milton L. Lane Jr. says:

    It is truly a great thing that the folks are responding to their needs be it from a home loan, medical, mental or in some cases someone that has experienced the hoors of battle.

    Our welcome back were some younger folks spitting on us, claiming we were rapist and baby killers. It bothered us a lot, hopefully the VA will understand PTSD affects a lot of us to this day and yep if it is checked all my find the VA ios a bit lacking on our issues we have and still live with on daily basis.

    Please do not assume to say you understand what it is like. This saying goes still stands true “If you haven’t been there don’t try and tell me about it”.

    You might find that there are few, or more of the folks working to help the Gulf War vets are actually Vietgnam vets.

    Well just some comments from one those that went away to come back and still confused to this day.

    A Vet from long past.

  8. Actions speak louder than these flowery words.

    Last year, the RAC (on which I have served as an ill and affected Gulf War veteran since 2005) issued a finding of, “no confidence in the ability or demonstrated intention of VA staff to formulate and execute an effective VA Gulf War illness research program.” VA has yet to fix the many serious issues identified in this report, including the whitewashing of this first ever Strategic Plan, which had been aimed at solving Gulf War Illness prior to VA staff whitewashing.

    It is also notable that VA can find the time to write press puff pieces like this one, but cannot find the time to respond with any substance to each of the many points raised in a joint letter of concern to Secretary Shinseki from all the Gulf War veterans on this RAC panel.

    Actions speak louder than words: VA to date has no proven effective treatments for Gulf War Illness, and with its failed research efforts, is not on track to ever do so. And it is notable that essentially all of the positive treatment-focused research findings that’s been newsworthy in the last couple of years is non-VA, funded through a non-VA Congressionally directed medical research program at the behest of us ill Gulf War veterans.

    VA leaders must wake up and get it right — and recognize that several entrenched VA staff are part of the problem, or get out of the way for others who can.

  9. David K Winnett Jr says:

    How on God’s green earth can the VA send out such a preposterous press release, while to this very day the MAJORITY of 1991 Persian Gulf War Veterans (GWV) who are suffering from chronic life-altering illnesses have had their VA disability claims summarily denied, or tied up for years and years in endless appeals?

    Despite clearly written laws designed to provide the benefit of the doubt to ill GWV’s the majority of VA’s regional offices have failed miserably to train and supervise their claims administrators relative to the intent of those laws.

    Don’t think for one second that the VA’s ongoing pushback against the many uncomfortable truths the Research Advisory Committee has brought to the attention of the public hasn’t played a significant role in enabling the continued disenfranchisement of GWVs by the VA’s regional offices.

    This whole episode disgusts me more than words can express. Every member and former member of the Armed Forces knows that our most cherished credo is that we take care of our own. Apparently General Shinseki never got that memo. He needs to resign, NOW.

    David K. Winnett, Jr.
    Captain, United States Marine Corps (Retired).

  10. Keith A. Nordeng says:

    What a huge pile of cow plop. They are really concerned. After 23 years we are back at square one. With the troubles at RAC, putting out a contract to define the new term for Gulf War Illness now known as CMI (Chronic Multiple Illnesses). They have instituted the OIF/OEF now being renamed post-deployment clinics. Seems to me the war has a begin date of 1991 with an end date to be determined by the President. Have never heard of a post-9/11 conflict yet? Was explained to me that the clinic was set up to take the burden off of the General PCP and Specialty clinics and that the returning vets have a multitude of combat incurred injuries as unexplained illnesses. Also informed that VA is taking the problem seriously due to the Gulf War Registry, that Gulf War Veterans are invited to sign up for. Sound a little weird?

    Get out, inform the press, inform you Congressman and Senators. Raise some hell about what they are doing to us the Gulf War vet, the disenfranchised veteran.

  11. Peter Greene says:

    I am an ill Gulf War veteran. It has been a long 23 years since I put my ass on the line for the US Government. 23 years later I am still sick and getting sicker.

    This article mentions many milestones of VA achievement but I’m still sick. The VA has been accused of quashing research showing that Gulf War Illness is a neurological disease. If this is true, then the VA is guilty of inflicting years of pain, suffering, financial hardship and, in far too many cases, death. We are told that the VA is investigating the VA to determine the truth of these allegations. I have no faith in an institution that (allegedly) purposely ignored or quashed research that could have helped us. You can bet I wrote my congressmen and both Committees on Veteran’s Affairs to stay on top of this internal investigation. I have been assured by Sen. Bernie Sanders that this oversight will be vigilant.

    Sec. Shinseki has now lashed out and gutted the one program that ill Gulf War veterans have counted on. How is this effective? Not that it matters, I suppose. VA just ignores what they don’t want to hear from the RAC. Ignoring dedicated research scientists just doesn’t make sense.

    It has been 23 years and I am still sick.

    And getting sicker.

  12. David LaShell says:

    I am a Gulf War Veteran who served during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I have been to a specialized clinic for exposure concerns we were subjected to during the war of 90-91. The specialized clinic was the War Related Injury and Illness Study Center (WRIISC); this support agency ran specific tests that were not available at my VA Medical Center. Once I returned the physician I was assigned to become very interested in my healthcare, but he was handicapped because of his lack of knowledge concerning what was called Gulf War Illness. At the VA center I am assigned I have repeatedly asked the specialized doctors and physicians if they knew what Gulf War Illness was and could they understand what I am going through and help. None of the physicians I met had the 3×5 card the VA Administration so adamantly flaunts as a card to let physicians know about how to handle veterans from the Gulf War. When I went to the environmental coordinator for the Gulf War Registry, his comment was that “Gulf War Syndrome is only a form of symptomology not necessarily a sickness…”

    This is not the way we treat veterans that have given so much without doubt or question to the United States. The WRIISC was initially established as a specialized clinic for Gulf War Illness, which has not been opened up for all era veterans of all conflicts. This makes difficult for Gulf War 90-91 veterans to attend. Healthcare physicians in the VA are still not recognizing GWI as a serious physiological condition as stated in IOM since 2008.

    Veterans Administration has continuously stated they have proudly served the Gulf War Veterans with compassion and professionalism. This is untrue as Gulf War veterans are still fighting to get physicians to understand their medical issues. VA Secretary Shinseki has described that he included nine infectious diseases for presumptions to Gulf War veterans, these diseases are common diseases anyone can be infected with in the United States. What this means is that if you were in service and contract one of the diseases then you can be compensated up to one year after your discharge. This does not help those who suffer from these serious life threatening medical issues inflicted upon them from exposures. Second, the three presumptions related to Gulf War, Irritable Bowel, Chronic Fatigue, and Fibromyalgia, also are common to the population of the United States. Therefore, this is looked upon as not a serious condition of serving in the Persian Gulf. The only possible link to presumptions that come close to being assumed as service related to the Persian…

    • DL says:

      I completely agree with you. I firmly believe that I got thyroid problems from the water at Fort Polk, LA. I have growth hormone deficiency and low testosterone and have to take an injection of HGH and slather on testosterone. The Army and the VA blew me off, because they don’t want to pay for the HGH, as it is about a $1,000 a month. I use my civilian insurance but it is getting too expensive for me to do so with all the meds I have to take. When I called the Center For War Related Illness, I told the lady about my HGH deficiency and that I thought the water quality caused it and she said “I wouldn’t be surprised”, Guess it’s just like all the birth defects at Camp Lejune that they completely tried to ignore. I have Gulf War Syndrome and most of my disabilities, they kind of look at, deny, make one change, think about it, etc., etc., blah blah blah. I have appealed and appealed and still they won’t say these things are service-connected, They just deny, deny, deny and deny again. I wrote the President, but haven’t heard back yet and probably won’t respond either. Some things have changed, but when I asked about the qualifications, training and education of the people that review our records, they refused to give it to me even after I did a FOIA. It went via e-mail, but they think that e-mail isn’t official correspondence. Figures, they just don’t really care or want us to find out what they are trying to hide. Something is fishy when they ignore a FOIA and refuse to give me information that I should be able to easily come by. What is the deal??? Lots more problems trying to get my meds and service-connection for my osteoporosis. Was diagnosed by the Army in 1991 with it and diagnosed by the VA in 1994, but they never told me I had it and never treated me. They sent me to Afghanistan in 2003 with very brittle bones and they tell me it’s not service connected, which it is. I was Field Artillery and when they say Field Artillery, they mean the FIELD!!! I spent about 4 years or more out in the woods or desert and had to eat what they gave us, so I am surprised that others don’t have it too, but since it is a silent disease, they may never know until it’s too late. I had two back surgeries for two herniated discs I got in Desert Storm and was a 40% Disabled Veterans when they called me up and sent me to AFG. Then they wonder why it got aggravated and worse than before I went. I also picked up in 9 months, COPD with Emphysema, an enlarged prostate, a fast heart rate and Irritable Bowel Syndrome that I can’t get rid of. Even…

    • DL says:

      BTW there is a Gulf War Illness Training Guide for Medical Personnel on the VA Website, but doubt anyone has taken it, since the care is difficult to get. Maybe making it mandatory might help???

  13. Dr. Dave Hatfield, SGM, USA (Ret) says:

    So in 2011, you spent a little over $5 million out of $1.7 billion in research funds on Gulf War Illness. In 2012 you’ve spent $7.3 million out of $1.9 billion in research funds on Gulf War Illness. I know there are many competing priorities, but less than 0.4% of the research budget spent on an illness that has been affecting a quarter of a million troops for over 20 years? Ruining lives, killing veterans, destroying families, costing millions in medical care – and this merits 0.4% of the total VA research budget, and we should be joyful and satisfied with that, because it’s higher than the 0.3% of the total research budget you spent on Gulf War Illness last year?

    I’m sorry, but I’m not satisfied. The VBA still can’t get it’s act together and recognize multiple symptom illnesses as Gulf War Illness. Until they recognize the illness, the VHA won’t treat the veterans as having a service connected disability, so those troops aren’t getting the great medical care you talk about. $7 million is NOT a sufficient amount of research dollars to be spending on such a complex medical problem as this. GWI involves neurological, immune, and endocrine systems, at the very least. Without coordinated studies by researchers in each of those fields, you will never find the cause or the treatment, let alone a cure if there is one. Scattering $7 million around to a handful of researchers is not going to answer any of the vexing questions needed to solve this problem.

    No matter how good your strategic plan sounds, if you can’t fund the tactical elements with the resources necessary to carry out a real strategic plan for attacking the objective successfully, you’ll never succeed. With all due respect, I suggest your strategic plan is set up and funded for failure.

    • DL says:

      And they wonder why Veterans are homeless and committing suicide? Things like this are why!!! For the Gulf War and Afghanistan War Veterans like me, it makes all the difference. I am lucky that I had a job and civilian insurance or I might have suffered homelessness and maybe even taken my own life, but I am Catholic, so I can’t. Let’s keep the Gulf War and OEF/OIF Veterans from becoming homeless too, but approving their claims faster and more accurately and this might get the Veterans the help they need and the suicide rate would come down. Let’s try this and see what a difference it makes in the rates of homelessness and suicide. Might just make a difference???

      • Dr. Dave Hatfield, SGM, USA (Ret) says:

        My first claim was denied in 30 days simply as “no connection to your military service was shown,” because I didn’t start showing any of the symptoms until after I’d left the service. It’s been appealed, denied again, my NOD was filed, and it’s been waiting on the DRO review for 3 years now, with no idea when that will happen. My latest claim to add additional symptoms sat for three years with no action. Last month in the big push to work all the claims older than two years, they gave me 4 days to provide any updated evidence. I got them the evidence and it took them 1 day to deny the claim “no connection to your military service” and tell me they couldn’t find the first two volumes of my C-file. Probably with the DRO you goobers! So I’ll appeal it and it will go into the same black hole as the first one.

        I have no confidence I’ll ever see anything from the VA. Hoping my wife might see something after I’m dead, but even that’s a toss-up. Like you, I’m just lucky I had private insurance and Tricare and some really great civilian doctors who have done their best to take care of me, despite a very strange disease.

  14. Dr. Dave Hatfield, SGM, USA (Ret) says:

    I just read the Gulf War Strategic Plan, which is shown as a “pre-decisional draft” for a 2012-2016 Strategy. Obviously, as we are now halfway through FY 13, a strategy supposed to start in 2012 is already behind by 2 years in terms of implementation. So the first step is to modify the strategy as recommended by the IOM and the RAC (in their February 1, 2012 comments and recommendations letter to you) in their joint and combined comments incorporated into the strategy document located at http://www.va.gov/RAC-GWVI/VA_draft_strategic_plan.pdf

    Obviously the report should be updated to the 2014-2019 Gulf War Strategic Plan and made to match or fit with other strategic studies and plans accordingly. It should also receive a hasty decision and approval to be implemented immediately. Many of the changes recommended by the RAC and IOM will take some time and significant work by your staff to complete. These changes and corrections will make this a much stronger document, though, and ensure it is headed in the right direction for the VA ORD and for Gulf War Veterans.

    Thank you!

  15. Cheyne Worley says:

    Bullshit!

    • DL says:

      Language please! The point doesn’t get made, even though it might be just that, when curse words are used. I just ignore it and it really detracts from the rest of the comments we spend time doing. Tell us why, without the curse words, and that will have a lot more impact.

  16. Keith A. Nordeng says:

    Why are no comments being posted?

  17. Charli (ColoradoWAC) says:

    It’s a shame that you don’t talk with more vets because they don’t believe the Department of Veterans Affairs gives a crap about us.

    Many veterans are suffering from chemical exposure but can’t get treatment or identification (I was exposed at FT McClellan, AL during basic). Many vets can’t even get into the system and those with head injuries and PTSD are often just tossed out of the military with no benefits. And if you have Chronic pain the VAMC system will fail you! Most of us believe you only care about good press.

    I hope none of the vets experience chronic pain because if they do they will not get good pain management from the VAMC system. About 10 years ago I started experiencing extreme chronic pain from several injuries (I’ve had back problems for over 20 years before this) and my doctor started me on morphine. When the VA switched to a generic morphine it didn’t work for me so I was switched to Fentanyl .

    Then suddenly I was told that all vets without cancer would be taken of opioid medications because some vets were having problems. I wasn’t having any problems (never lost meds, never abused them, etc) As they weaned me off the meds my pain shot up. I finally talked my doctor into leaving me on 50% of what I was on because of the pain after seeing the “pain specialists” in Denver. They decided that my DX was wrong (in spite of 4 neurologists dxing me before seeing them) because their person did an Addison Maneuver on me which was negative (it’s negative in about 50% of the cases and TOS is a dx of elimination. There are no reliable tests to dx it and I saw a world renown TOS expert who upheld the dx of the neurologists.) They did decide to keep me on the 50% level of medication. The trip was a waste of time and energy. Especially since we had to foot the cost of the trip and the hotel.

    At some point the pain (in spite of the 50% level of medication) will become intolerable and I will have no choice but to kill myself to stop the pain. This upset the psychologists at the VA who told me they could commit me because of this. It make perfect sense to me. what is quantity of life without quality? I’d rather move on to my next life.

    When I was on the meds I had little side effects and pretty good quality of life. At 50% my quality of life is gone. I’m unable to do the many things I used to do. I am a burden on my family and am unsure how long I will be able to hang on.

    I’ve seen the psychologists at the VA and tried other methods of pain control. The VAMC system offers no acupuncture and massage therapy (which…

    • DL says:

      From one end of the spectrum to another. First they pass it out like candy, then they take it back. Want to know something about people in chronic pain? When the pain stops they stop taking them. It’s usually the ones that take it after the pain is gone that have a problem with pain medications. I have tried everything for sciatic nerve pain and you could give me Darvon by IV and all it does is take the edge off the pain so I can tolerate it. Sciatic nerve pain is BRUTAL. If you never had it, you just don’t understand. I went a year and a half before I had my first surgery and I finally couldn’t stand it anymore and told the doctor to just cut the nerve, but that would have cost me my whole leg. You can’t see my herniated and collapsed vertebra or feel the pain when you look at me, because you just do not understand. Simple as that. If you have had it, then you would definitely understand. I think we need a new pain scale for sciatic nerve pain that is 1 thru 15, because the pain chart they use now isn’t good enough for me to describe the pain. I call this pain, the believe in God pain, because if you don’t believe in him and you get bad sciatic, you will because you will be praying to him to make it stop!!! I am not kidding. As your wife if she had it when the baby rolled over on it and ask her what pain was worse the nerve pain or childbirth? Everyone I have talked to say sciatic nerve pain is worse, because childbirth is painful, but it goes away right after the baby is born and the sciatic nerve pain they had for a short time, never goes away with people like me. My Mom got it for three months two years ago and she couldn’t stand it. She asked me how I stand it. I told her medication, but it just takes the edge off the pain, so I can tolerate it better but that it never goes away. She said that I shouldn’t have to live this way, but I told her “Don’t worry about it, I am used to the pain”. She started to cry because I have suffered with sciatic nerve pain for 22 years now and it got worse when they sent me to Afghanistan as a 40% Disabled Veteran who had two back surgeries. How about weeding out the ones that don’t need the pain meds and focus on the ones that really do like me and others dealing with severe chonic pain. Use a fire hose when doctors should have not been doing it in the first place giving it out like candy, so now the chronic pain sufferers have more pain to deal with? How’s that the right thing to do? I get upset when the Fed Govt does foolish things like making arbitrary decisions when they…

  18. Charli (ColoradoWAC) says:

    Continued:
    I’ve seen the psychologists at the VA and tried other methods of pain control. The VAMC system offers no acupuncture and massage therapy (which are both very effective for me) and the pain management program is a joke. I usually know more about opioid therapy then the doctors and other health professionals I see. I was a Drug Ed specialist and have 3 degrees in (Human Services, Counseling and Criminal Justice) Many have no idea about the difference between dependence and addiction. The psychologist they sent me to was woefully uneducated about pain medications/treatment and put me on antidepressants (I had huge side effects from them) and they did nothing for the pain. I hope the new vets have better luck with the system then we Vietnam Era Vets did.

    The government always promises care for it’s vet…of course they don’t promise the level of care THEY get. I used to believe the promises. NO more. My advice to other vets. Join veteran organizations, register to vote and vote intelligently, write your legislators and get EVERYTHING in WRITING!!

    For the most part the care I get at the VA is great…the failure is policies created by idiots who have no idea what it’s like to be a veteran. I also don’t think this post will get passed the moderators

  19. Dr. Dave Hatfield, SGM, USA (Ret) says:

    I left a couple of comments to this blog post last week. They were “being moderated” for a few days, then today when I checked, the comments were just gone. I didn’t receive an e-mail or any other contact I could find telling me why the comments weren’t considered acceptable. I know they disagreed with the Principle Deputy Undersecretary, but I thought from the description of Vantage Point, this was an opportunity for us to get the “right” information and to be able to ask the hard questions about that information. But if those questions are going to be censored to the point only comments in agreement or questions that support the blog entry are allowed, then it’s not really any different than the regular VA website anyway, is it?

    I’m not trying to be adversarial here, I’d just like an explanation of why my comments weren’t considered acceptable so I can modify them to meet the criteria, whatever those are, and repost them, to get the information I’m seeking from the Principal Deputy Undersecretary. For me, suffering from GWI, this is a matter of life and death, not just some lame nit-picking trying to stir up trouble.

    Thank you,

    Dave

  20. Jeffrey Beer says:

    I’m sorry. We do not accept this. Your track record concerning GWI is horrific, and no amount of spin will undo the wasted time. The record speaks for itself. It’s Agent Orange all over again.

  21. David Spencer says:

    Combat infantryman from the gulf war. Sick and getting sicker. Had to stop working in 2010, give up my business and put all the financial responsibility on my wife. Without her, I would be homeless, most likely dead. I wake an hour early to take a 20mg Oxycodone just so I can get out of bed. I take my son to school which is sometimes very difficult for me. He asks me what’s wrong daddy? I tell him that daddy doesn’t feel good. I wish he didn’t ask me that question. I miss just feeling good. A little motivation to take my boy to the park and chase him some. Instead, I watch him and his mother while I sit in the car or on a bench. I’ve exhausted natural, medication, pain meds, to no long term relief. With the millions being spent on trials and researching the research, where is my pill, my relief from all this pain? I have a variety of odd illnesses/diseases that doctors at the VA state they don’t test for these things. I ask the doctors at the VAMC in Dallas to call and talk to my civilian PCP, Neurologist, Gasterointerologist or independent doctor I see (Dr. Kipples), I get the same answer, “we’re not allowed to do that). Enough is enough, where is our treatment? 1/41 Infantry. Search it and see the hell we lived in Iraq, feels like nothing to the hell my family and I live with. That hell is ME.

  22. Denise Nichols says:

    NO CONFIDENCE VOTE OF RAC WAS CORRECT. Wrong to take away the independence that was what led to the law and sense of Congress after the dismal record of the nineties. Still have a tin ear, stone heart, and no conscious of what you are doing. Clean out the legacy personnel that have been complacent in the continued neglect of the gulf war illness.

  23. Jason Blackwood E4 USMC says:

    As a veteran who has been sick with this GWI since coming home from theatre
    I am disgusted at how the VA is handling all of this. How dare the VA tell us how it was over there. We used the same chemical suit- exposure after exposure without any regard to our health. We had no choice. If you want to know the truth and how it really was over there feel free to call me at 925 575-1116 ill give you(the VA) the cold hard truth.
    If it is a fight you want, then it is a war you will get. We will fight you not in conventional terms but with words of truth. Remember, the TRUTH has no agenda. Therefore, we will win because the TRUTH is on our side. You, the VA, have nothing but lies and deceit as your alibi.
    We will not stand by with idle tongues and hearts and let you tear apart the RAC in
    retaliation.

  24. todd says:

    This whole claim system is a joke! I was diagnosed ASTHMA/COPD by a VA doctor and they said it was linked to service in the Gulf War. I filed the ASTHMA claim in 2009. I was denied in July of 2012 becasuse as my denial letter states that you havent been diagnosed with asthma you have been diagnosed with copd and that it would be handled in a seperate adjudicated manner. What a croc of s—! I dont care what they call it, asthma, copd, breathing condition or anything else they can think of, alot of us have breathing troubles because of all the oil smoke that we were exposed to over there. My claim/appeal has been dragged out for nearly 4 years! As we were all taught, NEVER GIVE UP. Waiting on my BVA video hearing. Good Luck all

    • DL says:

      Not only from the burning oil wells that I lived by for 3 weeks in Kuwait and the other environmental hazards there. I got COPD/emphysema in Afghanistan in 9 months, because I didn’t have it before I left, and the burn pits caused this and other problems, but again, it’s all about the money and they don’t want to take ownership of it because it costs too much. I met two other people that were SF and they got COPD over there too and a guy that was in my same Army Reserve Unit, lived in a tent with in Afghanistan, and also worked for the Federal Government Agency I did, he also got it, so it is not an “isolated event”. Maybe in another 20 years like Agent Orange??? I get disability for COPD/emphysema, and it isn’t curable and I don’t plan on living to a ripe old age and hope I live long enough to get my military retirement in 5 years, but I am not hopeful.

      • In my opinion, I believe it is important to reference past Government incompetence related to Vietnam Agent Orange and WWII radiation exposure, but I think 1991 Gulf War Illness is an effective example as well. Sadly, Veterans Affairs Whistle-blower, Dr. Coughlin, has stated that the incompetence has carried over to post 911 veterans too.

        With the above said, there are many in the Veterans Affairs that do care. There are many that do amazing jobs too. For some odd reason, it seems that a few have very severe negative impact on many veterans.

  25. Terrence Ketih says:

    I find it reprehensible that the VA has chosen to effectively dismantle the one proactive group we Gulf War Vets have in our corner. The vote of “No Confidence” was duly earned. How can you, in good conscience, deliver this piece of fluff in lieu of a real explanation. Something needs to be done, and clearly VA is neither equipped nor willing to DO that something.

  26. I will believe it when I actually see the VA putting their words into practice. I have been fighting the VA since 2010 & as of right now my appeal is still pending. Last C&P examination was riddled with mistakes & LIES. I got so fed up with the VA I built this webpage so that I could post everything, date, times, name, etc https://plus.google.com/110321549524619427432/posts

    I was sick of it, so I figured I would go public to show the world the kind of stuff GWI vets are having to endure.

    I just had to quit my job last week because I could no longer endure the pain at work. It’s like the VA thinks that I wanted to quit a WELL paying job so that I could become a parasite living of the VA. Even if I get 100% that does not even hit 1/3 of what I made on my job. Now does that seem logical to you? Why would anyone very close to a 6 figure salary give up their job? BECAUSE I HAD TO. Let’s get this straight, I do not want to live of the VA’s help. I NEED the VA’s help. To me saying I want is like a little child saying I want, I want, I want. Do you guys seriously think I want this pain I have to bear every day? Do you think I want ALL these different health problems that plague me constantly? If I could give up the headaches, get back my mental cognition & the muscle and joint pain I would gladly trade off my arms and legs without thinking twice.

    If you are a vet suffering from Gulf War Illness. I highly recommend and encourage you to join the group. It feels liberating being able to talk with other people that know exactly what we are all going through. https://www.facebook.com/groups/125208941896/

    Lastly I would like to know. Why has Secretary Shinseki never attended a RAC meeting, but yet aimed at dismantling the group in retaliation for the VA being exposed in their wrong doings

    I will close at that. I could go on forever, but I think for now this is enough. I seriously doubt my comments will even be posted.

    Glenn Stewart
    US Army & NG retired
    Gulf War Illness / aka CMI casualty
    Webpage: https://plus.google.com/110321549524619427432/posts
    Facebook support group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/125208941896/

  27. J.Bowen says:

    I was a Flight Nurse in country during the Gulf War. I have been diagnosed with MS that a VA Neurologist agrees is service related. But what does the VA board determine? Nope, not related. Have a good day.
    I don’t know why I was shocked. I have heard for years that Gulf War illness claims are dismissed at a very high rate, and that it is nearly impossible for the VA Board to accept and admit vets have become ill as a direct link to their service. Sad indeed to be treated so poorly when we gave our all for this country. The VA should be ashamed.