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(Washington, DC) U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, today said he will continue his efforts to ensure that veterans with illnesses associated with service in the Gulf War receive the best medical care available.
"Nearly 16 years after the end of hostilities in the first Gulf War, questions about the health status of those who served in that conflict remain," Burr said. "Evidence shows that many of them suffer from fatigue, memory loss, joint pain, and skin rashes at higher rates than their fellow soldiers who were not deployed to the Gulf War. We still don't know why these people who shared a common experience of service in the Gulf War are suffering from these medical problems. Over the past fifteen years, the U.S. has spent well over $300 million on research and yet we still don't have the answers," Burr stated.
"While we may not know the cause of these diseases, we do know the symptoms our veterans face are real. Our research efforts should continue to focus on treatment for our Gulf War veterans. Our veterans deserve to know the cause of these illnesses and they deserve the best care available to manage symptoms," Burr added.
Dr. Meryl Nass, an internal medicine physician from Maine, testified that at the time of the 1991 war, American combat servicemembers could have been exposed to depleted uranium, pesticides, smoke from oil well fires, as well as nerve agents from the destruction of Iraqi weapons. The National Institute of Medicine reviewed 850 studies and found that there was no consistent pattern of symptoms among veterans of the first Gulf War.
Lea Steele, an associate professor at Kansas State University who studies veterans with medical complications from the Gulf War, told the committee that some of the symptoms can be debilitating. "Veterans with Gulf War Illness typically experience some combination of severe headaches, memory and concentration problems, persistent pain throughout the body, and profound fatigue," Steele said.
Active duty military personnel who have questions or concerns about their health or service in the Persian Gulf region are advised to contact their commanding officer or call the Department of Defense Gulf War Veterans Hotline (1-800-497-6261).
Veterans seeking disability compensation for illnesses incurred in or aggravated by military service should contact a Veterans Benefits Counselor at the nearest VA regional office or health care facility or call the VA Gulf War Information Helpline at 1-800-PGW-VETS (1-800-749-8387).