Friday, June 14, 2013

Advocates say VA gutting Gulf War Illness panel

Advocates say VA gutting Gulf War Illness panel
USA Today
Kelly Kennedy
June 14, 2013

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki has altered the charter of an independent board to research Gulf War Illness, cut its budget and limited the board's independence, according to a directive Shinseki signed last month.

"I have discussed these issues with the secretary and have directed the staff to implement a few actions regarding the committee," said Jose Riojas, Shinseki's interim chief of staff, in a May 16 letter to James Binns, the group's director. "In summary, I have directed that one-half of the members remain and one-half be replaced in accordance with VA policy," Riojas wrote.

Binns, Riojas wrote, is invited to remain as chairman of the board for one more year to "assist the transition process."

Rather than having an independent staff, the board's staff may now be provided by regular VA personnel. Before, the board oversaw those people.
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Gulf War Veterans Found To Develop Specific Mental Disorder, 'Gulf War Illness,' After Trauma
New research indicates Gulf War illness alters heart and brain function in veterans after facing trauma in the Gulf War.
JUN 14, 2013

About one in 8 war veterans develop some sort of mental disorder related to having been in combat.

A newly identified disorder called Gulf War illness (GWI) has affected close to 30 percent of the military personnel who served in the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War. The ailment is similar to post traumatic stress disorder, though people with GWI have symptoms unrelated to other mental ailments after times of high stress.

One might expect most Gulf War veterans to face posttraumatic stress disorder, a condition characterized by anxiety and flashbacks caused by a traumatic event like facing death, rape, or killing others. Its symptoms appear three months after exposure to a traumatic event and include flashbacks, avoidance of once enjoyed activities, depression, memory issues, and hopelessness. Gulf War veterans, however, show slightly different symptoms, feeling great deals of muscular pain unrelated to injuries or even depression. Similarly, their memories are significantly altered, leading researchers to believe that they have an entirely different ailment.

In a new study, researchers at Georgetown University have identified two distinct forms of GWI where the veterans' brains have actually atrophied, or died from over use. Symptoms of these veterans include cognitive impairment, widespread aches and pains, and tremors.
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