Today, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced that the Department's Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses Task Force will publish a comprehensive draft report in the Federal Register for public feedback and comment. The report describes how the Department of Veterans Affairs has been, and will continue to address the concerns of Veterans who deployed during the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991.
"We know Gulf War Veterans are experiencing critical long-term medical issues that are complex and difficult to label," said Shinseki. "VA has learned a great deal over the past 20 years about identifying, diagnosing and treating Gulf War Veterans, and we will continue to evaluate our research and clinical findings to ensure we keep providing world-class health care and benefits for Gulf War Veterans."
Over the past several years, the Task Force has refined an integrated roadmap to better synchronize efforts and improve care and services to Gulf War Veterans. VA is working towards these efforts becoming a part of the culture and operations.
This year's report continues to focus on efforts to improve health care for Gulf War Veterans including innovative enhancements to clinical care. The draft report identifies seven specific areas where VA will strive to improve services for Gulf War Veterans.
The seven areas focus on important components of health care, such as Veteran-centric approaches to specialty and primary care, delivering Veteran benefits, and improving open communications with Gulf War Veterans. The Task Force also developed plans to improve linkages between specialty knowledge and services at the basic point of care to address treatment for chronic multi-symptom illness, an ongoing concern of Gulf War Veterans, their families and their providers.
VA continues to support ongoing efforts by providing clinical research and development, which is outlined in the recent, first-ever released Research Strategic Plan on Gulf War Illnesses. This plan will be used to help refine clinical practice and clinical education throughout VA. VA continues to strengthen partnerships to enhance medical surveillance related to potential health impacts on Veterans from the environmental exposures on today's battlefields.
VA and the Department of Defense recently approved a research project to develop a long-term exposure record to collect and share deployment and exposure data between the two Departments, a model informed by lessons learned in earlier Gulf War studies. "This decades-long research and continuing partnership has not only transformed the care and services to Gulf War Veterans, but has also made us smarter about how we care for Veterans of all eras." said Shinseki.
Today, VA is seeking public comments on the draft Task Force report before final publication. The public notice and instructions for how to submit electronic and comments via postal mail will be posted at www.regulations.gov, and the draft written report will be open for comment for 30 days. In addition, VA recognizes that a great number of Gulf War Veterans use the Internet on a daily basis to share their ideas and concerns, so VA has also created a public discussion board on the seven focus areas at: http://vagulfwartaskforce.uservoice.com/. To view the report without making recommendations, please visit VA's website at: http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/Draft_2012_GWVI-TF_Report.pdf.