Senators Lead Effort on Behalf of Estimated 175,000 Affected Gulf War Vets
Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Robert C. Byrd, D-West Virginia, and Bernie Senders, I-Vermont, applauded the Senate's passage of a $10,000,000 investment in research to combat Gulf War Illness. Byrd and Sanders led the effort to include the funding in the Fiscal Year 2008 Department of Defense Appropriations legislation, which cleared the Senate on November 9th.
"As recent research has further demonstrated, an alarming number of Gulf War veterans continue to suffer serious ailments as a result of exposure to toxic materials during the Persian Gulf War," said Byrd. "It is our moral responsibility to help those who are suffering as a result of illnesses contracted while serving our nation. We can and must do more to find treatments and cures for these serious ailments."
"Over 175,000 veterans are still suffering from a poorly understood set of illnesses related to their service in the first Gulf War," said Sanders. "After years of denial and resistance from the Defense Department and the VA, we are finally beginning to see some promising research that could help our ill service members. This research funding means that we are keeping faith with those who so honorably served our country and who deserve real treatment and a government that lives up to its promise to care for those that wear our uniform."
The complex of symptoms commonly known as "Gulf War Illnesses (GWI)" - widespread pain, cognitive impairment, and persistent fatigue in conjunction with diverse other symptoms and abnormalities - are associated with service in the Southwest Asia theater of operations in the early 1990s during the Persian Gulf War. Byrd and Sanders' efforts are consistent with the Pentagon's historical commitment to finding treatments and cures for the estimated 175,000 Gulf War veterans affected -- roughly a fourth of those who served.
The provision authorizes $10 million in funding for Gulf War Illnesses research to be conducted by the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command's Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) (http://cdmrp.army.mil/aboutus.htm)., which last year initiated a promising pilot program to identify treatments and diagnostic tests for Gulf War illnesses.
The following Veterans Service Organizations support the Byrd/Sanders provision:
- American Legion
- Veterans of Foreign Wars
- Disabled American Veterans
- Paralyzed Veterans of America
- Vietnam Veterans of America
- Veterans of Modern Warfare
- National Vietnam and Gulf War Veterans Coalition
Gulf War Illness Facts
Three new studies recently released by a team from Boston University, VA, and the Army have added to the compelling body of recent research showing that these illnesses are serious neurological conditions resulting from toxic exposures during the war.
Ill veterans with five or more symptoms showed a loss of brain mass in MRI scans of areas related to learning and memory, and also performed significantly worse on objective learning and memory tests.
Veterans exposed to low levels of nerve gas following the destruction of a major Iraqi arms depot at Khamisiyah, Iraq, showed a loss of brain white matter and poor performance on motor coordination tests equivalent to aging 20 years.
Previous studies have shown that Gulf War veterans have double the rate of ALS found in other veterans, and that veterans potentially exposed at Kamisiyah have double the expected rate of brain cancer deaths.
Current and future American military forces, as well as civilians, are also at risk of similar exposures and will benefit from the research supported through this funding.