Desert Storm Diaries: THE WAR AFTER THE WAR

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by Denise Nichols, Staff Writer 

The VA Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Next meeting is for September16-17, 2009(tenative-not final until published in federal Registry) in DC the committee is reviewing in public their recommendations for their final report to be turned in to the VA Secretary sometime after this final meeting.  I will again encourage veterans to attend and have their voices heard on public comment. 

I know this committee has turned down efforts by the advocates for change and we are not happy!  Each recommendation that would truly help has been pushed off the table!  There will be a call in number that allows you to listen but not comment! 

They never set up the full capabilities of full Audio Visual Conferencing that the government has available!  That could have been set up in every VA hospital auditorium across the nation so all veterans, veterans family members and health care provider could be present and input into the discussions.

     

The Discussions were mainly in DC with three out of DC visits to Baltimore VA, Seattle VA, and Atlanta VA.  This committee does not even want to recommend that a standing VA Advisory committee on Gulf War Veterans in regards to Care and Benefits be formed so work can be continued in the future!

Sadly the Gulf War Veterans that are serving on the committee from the service organizations have sided with the chairman instead of digging in their heels and fighting for real change for the Gulf War Veterans.  Now I really hate to let this be known publically but well it is the truth.  Mr Kirt Love has done an admireable job against all forces.  Dr Hart has contributed significantly.  A three hour presentation was made by Dr Hart and Dr Hailey which should have gotten the hard facts to open the eyes more for these committee members. 

I am reviewing my files and decided to post my comments that I made to the committee in hopes of opening a review of what has been given to the committee.  I hope that all will contribute hard suggestions to this committee one more time and try again to have them listen!   The last committee meeting on 15-16 July resulted in no public comment.    This is sad!  I am hoping that veterans and advocats are sending in their written suggestions to be on record.  I am hoping that Patriot Guard come in force to this last session with their motorcyles and fllags and speak about how many Gulf War Veterans of 1990-91 they have laid to rest!





WE have one more chance with this ADVISORY COMMITTEE to the VA Secretary let us be heard and seen both Inside and Outside!  Matt Letterman the Gulf War Veteran who appeared at this advisory Committee in September 2008 is at the VA hospital in DC now catch up with him thru www.tractortodc.blogspot.com  Help us all by following Matt’s story which is just one example of the hundreds of thousands of Gulf War Veterans of 1990-91.  He was forced to take on this dangerous mission for his own care and benefits but he is in no means ALONE!

WALK THE WALK PEOPLE -BE HEARD, BE SEEN NOW!

  • U.S Department of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans
  • Meeting of June 17-19, 2008, Washington, DC
  • Comments by Denise Nichols for National Vietnam and Gulf War Veterans Coalition

Thank you for the opportunity to provide public comments for the National Vietnam and Gulf War Veterans Coalition. This is a summary provided in advance of the meeting that I intend to make during this first meeting of the newly created Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans. There is so much to say that time will not allow at this first meeting.

First concerning the actual conducting of this advisory committee we have to encourage you to set your schedule at least 6 months in advance so that we have the dates and places of the meetings. We along with others will encourage you to travel the country and not just stay in DC. We will encourage you to have the VA truly but all efforts out to the Gulf War Veterans of 90-91 to notify them of the meetings using a full press relations in all media but additionally that the veterans are notified in writing or phone from their local VA hospitals especially if the committee is to meet in a certain location. We also want to highly encourage you to have the VA open fully their use of video teleconferencing abilities for these advisory committee meetings.

In that way gulf war veterans could go to their local VA’s auditorium and sit with VA Personnel and be hooked in live and be able to offer their public comments. You need to hear directly from as many of the veterans as possible to truly get the input of those hundreds of thousands. I am aware that Walter Reed eventually had to have customer relations training from Walt Disney enterprises. VA may need that effort too. 

The scope of the problem is large with over 1/3 of those that survived in 90-91 having sought VA care/compensation. This is truly a huge number not seen prior to our time in history as referenced by Ross Perot when he testified to Congress. When we came home and started coming forward for help with our dramatically changed health status we were all met with denial that something had truly affected our health, we were called wimps and ignored and brushed aside.

That was certainly not the way to treat patients but sadly this is still occurring after 17 years. We encourage the VA thru this committee’s actions to finally take the Proactive Stance that has been missing to stand up for the Veterans and honor them. Sadly we have already lost to many in 17 years and it is time for the truth to be given and the veterans of the gulf war to be truly honored. It would be nice if this started with the Secretary of the VA and the administration acknowledged us and start with an apology to each of the hundreds of thousands of veterans that have endured.

It must be acknowledged that these advisory committees that the VA has was the result of the effort of the veterans themselves in desperation to get corrective action initiated. In this case 17 years too late. AS we all know the proof is in the process that is started here today and the actions that follow.

In the area of Research we want to offer our full support for the VA RAC GWI the committee members are to be complimented in the work they have done and the work yet to be done. The VA needs to support them by using the live video conferencing abilities that it has available so that researchers and doctors and the gulf war veteran patients and their families can learn and share together breaking developments in research findings.

WE ask that you also speak up to help this happen. It is critically important that we find an effective means of education for the veterans, their families but most of all for the medical personnel and the claims personnel . We ask that the VA fully support the RAC that has been doing historic work with truly some of the best scientific minds in an effort to unravel the complexities of the Gulf War illnesses. We ask that the research efforts be strengthen through this committee’s endorsement, the VA, the DOD, administration, and congress to support the funding requested not just from VA but DOD’s 2/3 commitment that was removed in 2001.

This group of veterans was indeed differently they asked for DIAGNOSIS, TREATMENT(the Best), AND FAIR COMPENSATION. We have asked to find the best diagnostic abilities to be found and to find forward leading treatments for us. We earned this. We also are aware by standing firm we indeed are still serving our nation.

What we encountered in the gulf war of 90-91 was hazardous exposures that could occur to the civilians here or elsewhere, it behooves us to strength the push forward not just for us but for National Security.

It would help if DOD and the administration now moves to declassify fully the records of what occurred in our war after all it has been 17 years and Saddam has now been removed at a huge cost to this nation. It seems an appropriate time to get that done NOW! That information disclosure would acknowledge what Price the Gulf War veterans Operation Desert Storm have paid the cost as well as our current OIF veterans and forces.

That disclosure could also help physicians, researchers, claims personnel to experience the change of attitude needed and to get the knowledge needed to meet the needs we have had and will have in the future. Learn from the errors, make swift corrective actions, plan and think smarter in the future is what we ask.

WE need the ones of us that have died since 1990-91 to be acknowledged by a true accounting not by numbers but by a true death registry by name, age unit, location in theater and cause of death. These were individuals that died and should be honored!

We thank www.Honor the Names.com for doing something that the VA should be doing fully! We need to hear from their survivors first and be sure they have been adequately cared for and recognized. We hope that this committee will honor them by devoting the next meeting to that task and the VA needs to consider how to help these survivors and veterans to come forward.

Their cost of accommodation and travel is indeed high and something needs to be done to assist our ability to participate in these fact finding advisory committees. Just as Congress initially did not assist the veterans that came forward and eventually start covering that cost. At the least the VA and DOD could help by letting the survivors and the veterans have access to travel funds and to rooms. Private non profit organizations need to reach out also to help us in this effort.

We ask that registries be established for the undiagnosed category, for the diagnosed neurological conditions, for the cancers(all), and all the other diagnosed conditions. This information needs to be given ASAP by the VA and the process needs to be transparent and open to the public. It is through this method that advances in our diagnosis, care, claims and research efforts to help us can be accomplished fully.

We will address in the future needs for outreach, education of all staff medical, care, and claims and what steps are needed for corrective action. We hope and pray that this committee sets a full published time schedule, meeting schedule to include place and time and the issues to be discussed at each meeting so that recommendations for short, medium, and long term can be made as the committee continues in its time schedule and that corrective action can start and continue monthly instead of waiting for any 18 months. We also hope that the door is opened to make this advisory committee continue past that 18 months until all issues are addressed, corrective action is taken, and reevaluated for further changes in the future.

There needs to be no end date to either advisory committee we continue until all issues are corrected and reevaluations made. Neither of these advisory committees should be PAPER TIGERS but REAL ACTION TEAMS to Address the needs that were and are unmet and that this is indeed a continuing commitment that needs to be made for the veterans that paid the price and earned the respect and all efforts that can be made each day of the year and for all their remaining time.

 

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