By Denise Nichols
The data that shows VA has not done well by the Ill Gulf War Veterans of 90-91- Operation Desert Storm is piling up. These veterans are very ill and many have died in the intervening 21 years. The Gulf War Veterans truly feel like the Abandoned Forgotten Veterans. They are feeling like they were placed in the Expectant Triage Category at the time of the War and true action to help them has not occurred. The only body that has stood up that is continuing to battle for them is the VA Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illness Research (Law enacted in 2000 and meetings began in 2002).
One of the documents that was released at the VA RAC GWIR meeting in Boston this past Monday and Tuesday has more appendices and proof but the basic report provides all the details that are needed. An uprising should be occurring but it is not because these veterans are physically ill, not getting the health care ie diagnosis and treatment that is needed NOW, they have not had their claims adjudicated correctly, and their families are falling or have fallen apart. We do not want another episode of more suicides but veterans and their families are down legitimately and need help now and are getting discouraged. They need as much help as the post 911 veterans if not more because they are 21 years into the sufferring and health failures because of government malfeasance and criminal acts. This action that has gone on for 21 years must stop and someone has to show leadership and accountability!
This is the VA RAC GWIR analysis of the VA Funded Gulf War illness Research:
Analysis of Research Projects Included in VA Gulf War Research Portfolio FY2009-2010 6/14/2012
On June 28, 2010 and November 1, 2012, VA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) provided the Research Advisory Committee (RAC) with spreadsheets containing information on all projects included in VA’s FY 2009 and FY 2010 Gulf War research portfolios. The following analysis summarizes this information, which is the most recent provided to the committee.
RAC staff reviewed information on studies in the FY2009 Gulf War research portfolio to identify the research questions addressed by each project. Projects were then classified according to the degree the study focused on questions relevant to Gulf War service and the health of Gulf War Veterans. Results of these analyses are summarized below.
Funding for Projects Included in the VA FY2009 Gulf War Research Portfolio
- Total Funding for Projects Identified as Gulf War Research $15,658,015 100%
- Gulf War related conditions and effects of Gulf War exposures $8,687,878 56%
- UTSW program $6,972,481 (45%)
- Other projects 1,715,397 (11%)
- Projects with more relevance to Gulf War veterans’ health $653,172 4%
- ALS, Gulf War specific $651,989 4 %
- ALS, General(brain bank) $5,664,976 36%
Approximately $8.6 million(56%) of ORD’s FY 2009 Gulf War research portfolio funding was for projects focused on issues specifically relevant to the health of Gulf War veterans. However, $6.9 million dollars of this amount went to fund the University of Texas Southwestern Gulf War Veterans Research Program contract. In addition, Gulf War relevant funding included $600 thousand (4%) for projects that study symptoms or processes that may relate more peripherally to Gulf War –related conditions and about $650 thousand (4%) for ALS studies that include a research question relevant to Gulf War service including gene-environment interactions.
Approximately 36% of the total funding in the ORD’s FY 2009 Gulf War research portfolio represented $5.6 million for a single project called the “VA Gulf War Biorepository Trust.” This project was originally presented by ORD to the committee in 2005 as a Gulf War brain bank, in response to a recommendation to create such a brain bank in the committee”s 2004 report. In fact, it has been established as an ALS brain tissue bank that does not specifically focus on Gulf War veterans. Of the 61 brains harvested from this program to date, only 1 donor brain came from a Gulf War veteran. The inclusion of the VA ALS brain bank in the Gulf War portfolio when brain tissue from only 1 Gulf War Veteran with ALS has been obtained to date leads to a misperception that VA is spending more to conduct research on the health of Gulf War veterans than is actually the case, particularly since this funding makes up 65% of the FY 2009 Gulf War
Research portfolio excluding UTSW.
- Funding for Projects included in the VA FY2010 Gulf War Research Portfolio
- Total Funding for projects Identified as Gulf War Research $9,690,491 (100%)
- Gulf War-related conditions, effects of Gulf War exposures $3,286,677 34%
- UTSW program: $2,288,755 (24%)
- Other projects 997,922 (10%)
- Projects with more remote relevance to Gulf War veterans’ health $5,464,092 56%
- 7 Tesla MRI system at SFVA: $5,085,117 (52%)
- ALS, Gulf War specific $353,309 4%
- ALS, General $586,413 6%
In August 2009, VA chose not to renew the UTSW Gulf War research program contract for years three to five. This decision allowed for the completion of previously approved research projects but not for the start of any new projects under the UTSW contract.
Approximately $3.2 million (34%) of ORD’s FY 2010 Gulf War research portfolio funding was for projects focused on issues specifically relevant to the health of Gulf War veterans. This category included $2.2 million dollars to fund the previously approved ongoing projects at the University of Texas Southwestern Gulf War Veterans Research Program. In addition, approximately $100 thousand was approved for planning a genome-wide association cooperative studies program (CSP) to identify genes that could confer susceptibility to developing Gulf War illness as was recommended by the Institute of Medicine(IOM).
In addition, about $350 thousand (4%) was approved for ALS studies that include a research question relevant to Gulf War service and about $600 thousand(6%) for research in ALS studies that was not particularly related to Gulf War veterans with ALS.
Approximately $5 million (52%) of the total funding in ORD’s FY 2010 Gulf War research portfolio represented part of the purchase of a single piece of equipment, a 7-Tesla MRI scanner at the San Francisco VA. Funding for this equipment was considered as having remote relevance to Gulf War veterans’ health because to date there is no submitted study protocol or grant submission that would identify what the Gulf War – related use of this new MRI scanner will be. In addition, it was unclear why the purchase was necessary as 7-Tesla MRI machines were already available locally to VA researchers at UCSF and Stanford.
Gulf War Projects Funded in Fy 2011
Although VA ORD recommended three Gulf War treatment-related studies or funding during late 2010 after reviewing 13 submitted proposals, these proposals were not actually funded during this fiscal year and will be included in FY2011 reporting. These studies include a mindfulness treatment trial, an exercise treatment trial and a Gulf War illness animal model treatment study that includes combination treatment with antidepressants, antioxidants and exercise regimens. Total annual funding for these newly approved projects is approximately $650 thousand.
ORD otherwise has provided no funding amounts for projects approved to date in FY 2011.
Since 2009, VA ORD has stated that it would create its own comprehensive research program in place of the non-renewed UTSW research contract. The Research Advisory Committee was initially told that the new VA ORD plans would expand the Gulf War brain biorepository(CSP #501) to include tissue from any deceased Gulf War veteran donor and would also begin a large-scale genome-wide association study (CSP#585). On February 28,2011, ORD informed the Committee that these CSP studies would be considered 2-year pilot projects and that the genome-wide association study would be changed to a blood biorepository that would collect samples over a 7-9 yr time period before any genomics studies would be performed.
Research Funding Summary FY 2011
On June 21,2011, VA office of Research and Development (ORD) provided the RAC committee office with spreadsheets listing projects included in VA’s FY 2010 Gulf War research portfolio and projected FY 2011 GW research portfolio.
Funding for Projects included in the VA FY2011 Gulf War Research Portfolio
- Total Funding for Projects Identified as Gulf War Research $5,726,951 100%
- Studies of Gulf War veterans’ health and effects of Gulf War exposures $1,533,556 27 %
- Multisymptom illnesses : $1,290,781
- ALS: $242,775
- Projects with more remote relevance to Gulf War veterans’ health $584,449 10%
- ALS, General $1,862,572 33%
- Brain Bank: $938,151 (16%)
- CSP #567 ALS therapy: $741,771 (13%)
- Other unrelated studies $1,728,476 30%
- MS, General: $1,103,462 (19%)
- Pain, General: $625,014 (11%)
Approximately 27% of ORD’s FY2011 Gulf War research portfolio funding was for projects focused on issues specifically relevant to the health of Gulf War veterans. This included $1.3 million for projects focused on treating Gulf War related conditions, identifying potential biomarkers of illness (including initial funding for the Gulf War tissue repository/brain bank CSP#501B) or the effects of Gulf War exposures, and $240,000 for a study of ALS involving Gulf War veterans. Approximately $600 thousand (10%) was approved for projects with more remote relevance to Gulf War veterans’ health, including sleep studies and therapies for respiratory illnesses that are not related to Gulf War Veterans specifically.
In addition, $1.8 million(33%) was spent for research in generic ALS studies. Also included were $1.7 million (30%) in generic studies (not directed at Gulf War veterans) of conditions such as multiple sclerosis (an illness which has not been associated with Gulf War service, although it is suspected) and pain, including a study of women veterans of the current(OIF/OEF) Iraq war.
The overwhelming majority of veterans with ALS, MS, and pain are veterans of other eras. The current inclusion of generic ALS, MS, and pain research in the”Gulf War research” portfolio dramatically overstates VA’s Gulf War research commitment. Furthermore, ALS and MS research does not address the dominant health problem of Gulf War veterans, Gulf War chronic multisymptom illness, which is reason for having a Gulf War research program, as recommended by the Institute of Medicine.