Gulf War illness study continues

For the third time in 22 years, Department of Veterans Affairs researchers will reach out to Gulf War veterans while conducting a long-term study of their health.

“Our message to our Gulf War veterans is clear,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  “We are not forgetting you, we are listening to you, and we are acting.”

The follow-up study is part of a long-term look at how Gulf War veterans are faring, and will provide essential data to guide the care of these veterans.

Researchers looking to learn about how the health of these Veterans has changed over time were expected to contact veterans who were  previously involved in  1995 and 2005 at the end of May, approximately 15,000 Gulf War Veterans and 15,000 Veterans who served elsewhere during the Gulf War. The study group includes all branches of service, representing active, reserves, and National Guard members.

Women veterans are being oversampled to make sure they are represented, making up 20 percent of the study sample.

Veterans were asked about health issues that affect them, including chronic medical conditions such as cancer, neurological, respiratory and immunological conditions, as well as general health perceptions, functional status, chronic fatigue syndrome-like illness, unexplained multi-symptom illness and women’s health. They were also asked about their use of VA health care and satisfaction with that care.

More than a dozen scientific articles have been published from the two earlier surveys in the study.  This work has investigated multi-symptom illnesses, chronic diseases, and environmental exposures associated with military deployment, such as a recent scientific article showing that Gulf War Veterans’ health has worsened over time compared to the health of Gulf War Era Veterans who served elsewhere.

Gulf War Veterans reported higher rates of ongoing  unexplained  multi-symptom illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, and chronic fatigue syndrome-like illness, along with higher health care utilization, including frequent clinic visits and recurrent hospitalization.