For the third time since the 1990-1991 Gulf War, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) researchers will contact Gulf War-era Veterans as a part of a long-term study of their health.
"Our message to our Gulf War Veterans is clear: We are not forgetting you, we are listening to you, and we are acting," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "This Gulf War follow-up study provides an important long-term look at how Gulf War Veterans are faring, and will provide essential data to guide the care of these Veterans."
For the "Follow-up Study of a National Cohort of Gulf War and Gulf Era Veterans," researchers want to learn about how the health of these Veterans has changed over time, and about the natural history of long-term conditions like unexplained multi-symptom illnesses. Researchers will begin contacting participants at the end of May 2012. Veterans were previously contacted for a baseline survey in 1995 and a follow-up survey in 2005.
This continuing VA effort studies a group of 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, Reserve, and National Guard members. Women are being oversampled to make sure they are represented, making up 20 percent of the study sample. Veterans will respond via a paper or online survey, and researchers will also review medical records from a sample of study participants.
Veterans will be 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. Veterans will be queried about their level of physical activity and their use of alcohol and tobacco. They also will be asked about their use of VA health care and satisfaction with their 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. For example, a recent scientific article showed 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. These findings, other ongoing studies, and future research efforts will help VA to better understand the health consequences of deployment and guide care delivery.
VA is funding the new study by a team from the Post-Deployment Health Epidemiology Program, Office of Public Health. VA is working towards improving care, services, and benefits for Veterans of all eras. Additional information about this study can be found at http://www.publichealth.va.gov/epidemiology/studies/gulf-war-follow-up.asp.