VA launches new program to improve treatment of Gulf illness

By Kelly Kennedy
USA Today
Published: October 24, 2011
WASHINGTON – Twenty years after the end of the Persian Gulf War, the Department of Veterans Affairs plans to standardize and improve treatment for the one in four veterans who suffer from a multi-symptom illness that could have been caused by environmental exposures.
The VA has created a pilot program starting this week in Salt Lake City aimed specifically at caring for Gulf War veterans, and it vowed to improve training, data collection, research and communication for that group.
The department will distribute pocket cards explaining symptoms and possible exposures to medical staff.
The VA has created two positions in the Office of Research and Development to deal with health-related issues possibly arising from the Gulf War or other deployments.
A report, released by the VA's Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses Task Force, lays out a proposed plan to address veterans' concerns.
"This report provides a road map for our continued enhancements in our care and services we provide to Gulf War veterans," VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement. "We will be applying lessons learned from this report to veterans of all eras."
The proposal comes after years of research that mistakenly pointed to stress as the cause of symptoms such as chronic fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pain, chronic diarrhea and mysterious rashes.
Last year, the VA issued a 32-page training letter documenting possible environmental exposures found during the Gulf War and in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan that could result in troops' illness.
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