Gulf War Illnesses: Federal Research Efforts Have Waned, and Research Findings Have Not Been Reassessed Page: 3 of 22
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Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I am pleased to be here today as you consider the current status of the
federal government's research into the health concerns of Gulf War
veterans. In the years following the 1991 Persian Gulf War, approximately
80,000 veterans have reported various symptoms including fatigue, muscle
and joint pains, headaches, memory loss, skin rash, diarrhea, and sleep
disturbances. Scientists have agreed that many veterans have unexplained
illnesses-commonly referred to as Gulf War illnesses-that are
characterized by one or more symptoms that do not conform to a standard
diagnosis. Gulf War veterans' reports of illnesses and possible exposures
to several known and potential health hazards have prompted numerous
federal research projects on the nature, extent, and treatment of Gulf War
illnesses. Federal Gulf War illnesses research projects have been funded
primarily by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of
Defense (DOD), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
In 1993, the President named the Secretary of VA as the responsible party
for coordinating research activities undertaken or funded by the executive
branch of the federal government on the health consequences of service in
the Gulf War. In 2002, a congressionally mandated federal advisory
committee-the VA Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans'
Illnesses (RAC)-was established to provide advice on federal Gulf War
illnesses research needs and priorities to the Secretary of VA. The
committee is made up of members of the general public, including non-VA
researchers and veterans' advocates.
My remarks will summarize our findings on the status of federal research
on Gulf War illnesses and VA's communication and collaboration with
RAC. My statement is based on our report entitled Department of Veterans
Affairs: Federal Gulf War Illnesses Research Strategy Needs
Reassessment (GAO-04-767), which will be issued today. The report also
includes a description of the status of DOD's investigations on potential
exposures of service members and veterans to health hazards, such as
chemical and biological agents, and efforts that have been made by VA and
DOD to monitor cancer incidence among Gulf War veterans.
Our findings are based on interviews with senior officials within VA and
DOD and senior managers within each agency's relevant research offices.
We analyzed pertinent agency documents, including annual reports to
congressional committees describing research priorities, ongoing and
completed projects, and agency funding. Additionally, we interviewed RAC
officials, attended a RAC meeting, and reviewed RAC reports and
recommendations. We conducted our work from September 2003 through
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United States. General Accounting Office. Gulf War Illnesses: Federal Research Efforts Have Waned, and Research Findings Have Not Been Reassessed, text, June 1, 2004; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc290823/m1/3/: accessed July 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.