Desert Shield and Desert Storm Veterans who want to comment on their health concerns or ask about Gulf War Research can do so through the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses.
The committee provides advice and makes recommendations to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on proposed research studies, plans, and strategies related to understanding and treating the health consequences of military service from the war.
Gulf War service members were possibly exposed to single or a combination of toxicants of unknown quantities, said Dr. Karen Block, Gulf War Research Program Office of Research and Development.
“The voices and stories from Desert Shield and Desert Storm Veterans are invaluable for improving care,” Block said. “The Gulf War Program has funded new evidence- and implementation-based research projects based on their feedback.”
A 2018 study showed that the population of Gulf War Veterans treated at VA tends to have more medical conditions than other Veterans or continuing service members. Additionally, the study stated deployed Veterans typically have poorer health outcomes than non-deployed Veterans of the same era.
The Veteran Engagement Subcommittee stood up in 2019 for outreach to Desert Shield and Desert Storm Veterans in rural geographical areas. The subcommittee discusses the evolvement of their health concerns over the past 30 years, clinical research, and what Veterans would like the committee to communicate to VA. These sessions developed new research partnerships. They also increased Gulf War Veteran participation more than three times as previous committee meetings.
The committee made several recommendations in the past few years. One of these was a request for VA to partner with the National Institutes of Health to conduct a deep phenotyping study. The VA multi-site study will recruit deployed Gulf War Veterans with or without Gulf War illness. Results from this study will shed light on underlying biological mechanisms of Gulf War illness as well as identify potential ways for intervention.
The committee is currently working on new recommendations. The next Veteran engagement session is noon-3 p.m. Eastern Feb. 17, 2021. Immediately following the meeting is a 30th anniversary tribute to Gulf War Veterans.
For those with computer access, watch and listen online at http://va-eerc-ees.adobeconnect.com/racg-ves-feb2021/. For those with phone access only, the call-in number is (800) 767-1750; access code 56978. The call-in is for the Veteran engagement session only.