Some vindication for sick vets, but little relief

Ground combat in the 1991 Persian Gulf War lasted just 100 hours, but it’s meant 17 years of pain and anguish for hundreds of thousands of veterans.

Those who came home and complained of symptoms such as memory loss and joint pain are only sicker. Even as their lives unraveled as their health further deteriorated, many were told their problems were just in their head.

But, recently, many of the sufferers were given a new reason to hope. Earlier this month, a high-profile advisory panel to Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake affirmed previous research that a collection of symptoms commonly known as Gulf War illnesses are real and require treatment. The country has a “national obligation” to help them, the panel concluded.

The report, however, also noted a sad reality: Of the $340 million in government funds spent to research the topic, little has focused on finding treatments. And, researchers said, the estimated 175,000-210,000 Gulf veterans who are sick aren’t getting any better.

By KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press Writer

Many of those veterans are left wondering what’s next for them. The panel, created by Congress, said at least $60 million should be spent annually for research, but some veterans question if in these economically strapped times the money will be made available.

“I just hope that our elected officials pay attention to it and they accept that it is true,” said James Stutts, 60, of Berea, Ky., a retired Army lieutenant colonel and physician who struggles to walk and gave up practicing medicine because of memory problems after serving in the war. “It’s not a stress-related, nor is it a psychosomatic, issue. It is true. It is real. There is pain, not only for the veteran, but their families.”

The sad irony, said John Schwertfager, a veterans advocate in Ohio, is that many of the veterans who came home physically sick and were told wrongly it was a mental condition now struggle with real mental health problems after years of chronic pain and personal problems such as divorce and the inability to work.

“A slow, steady deterioration is what I’m seeing,” Schwertfager said.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081201/ap_on_
go_ot/gulf_war_illness;_ylt=AlMl3qpwj
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