Gulf War Illness: Still Not According To The VA

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Thanks to Scott Parks of The Dallas Morning Star, The Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Larry Scott of VA Watch Dog Dot Com, we once again learn what is, unfortunately, still the case.

UT Southwestern

The UT Southwestern Medical Center conference room was brimming with dignitaries on April 21, 2006. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Dallas billionaire Ross Perot looked on as university administrators and the federal government agreed to spend $75 million to research the causes of Gulf War illness. More than three years later, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has spent only a fraction of the earmarked money, and contract disputes between the VA and UT Southwestern are threatening the entire project run by noted epidemiologist Robert Haley.

A flurry of behind-the-scenes activity this month indicates that plenty of people were worried about the future of Haley's investigation into why so many 1991 Persian Gulf War veterans suffer from chronic fatigue, loss of muscle control, headaches, dizziness, memory loss and joint pain. A critical report issued by the VA's inspector general on July 15 sheds light on years of infighting and conflict between the VA's contract managers and UT Southwestern.

When the VA and UT Southwestern inked the research contract in 2006, the deal was said to be worth $75 million in federal funding " $15 million a year for five years. Today, no one is quite sure how much of that $75 million UT Southwestern will see. The main bone of contention was how much medical information and data on human research subjects UT Southwestern is obligated to share with the VA.

Inspector General

The Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reviewed a contract under which the VA is funding UT Southwestern Medical Center's research into the cause of Gulf War illness. Among the office's findings:

The VA and UT Southwestern have struggled over which entity owns the data generated by research on thousands of Gulf War veterans suffering from various illnesses.

UT Southwestern tried to prohibit the VA from getting access to some information gathered in the project. Both sides said they were concerned about veterans' privacy.

VA officials claimed ownership of all equipment that cost $5,000 per item " such as laptop computers. Only later did the VA realize that the contract stipulates that the equipment is owned by UT Southwestern.

In an effort to work more closely together, the VA moved personnel onto the UT Southwestern campus to work with researchers. But the VA provided its people with laptops that didn't have the proper software to do their jobs.

The Gulf War Veterans

Many Gulf War Veterans are ill. Yet unlike Vietnam Veterans the VA does not (yet !?!) recognize the Gulf War Veteran's service in the war has caused them to be ill. According to the VA there is no Gulf War Syndrome, which syndrome would entitle them to recompense.

--- Regards, Walt Schmidt