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Nearly 700,000 U.S. troops were involved in the first Gulf War. (PHC D. W. Holmes/US Navy)
Nearly 700,000 U.S. troops were involved in the first Gulf War. (PHC D. W. Holmes/US Navy)

Gulf War Veterans and Illness: 25 Years Later

PORTLAND, Ore. – Monday was the 25th anniversary of the ceasefire that ended the first Gulf War. During the short conflict, nearly 700,000 U.S. troops were engaged.

Dr. Ronald Grewenow, clinical director at the Portland Veteran Affairs Medical Center, says the war produced fewer physical injuries than other U.S. wars, and of those veterans reporting problems, most suffered from the still-unexplainable Gulf War Illness, which left them with fatigue and muscle pains.

Grewenow says war-time stress is the most likely cause, but there are other possibilities too.

“Such as exposure to things like nerve agent,” he says. “We can’t test for it, at least as of yet. There’s no way to determine past exposure, and if you can’t determine past exposure it’s hard to figure out what the effect is.”

He adds medical research to find the source of Gulf War Illness is looking promising, and there could be results in the coming years.

The VA has said exposure to chemicals like pesticides or nerve agents could be a source. However, prolonged stress on the brain is the most widely-accepted root of these symptoms.

Grewenow says Gulf War veterans, like all veterans, appreciate acknowledgement of their service and contribution. They also understand war has changed their lives forever.

Veterans often focus on working because it can be an important part of putting them back into the swing of domestic life.

“These veterans are used to being highly productive, and it’s very hard on them when they have difficulty re-engaging in the workforce,” Grewenow says.

Veterans of any U.S. conflict can find their local VA medical center and covered healthcare benefits at va.gov

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service

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4 comments

  1. usmc1one@gmail.com'
    David K Winnett Jr

    The last paragraph of the article demonstrates how pervasive the naivety and lack of knowledge is among the media where the issue of Gulf War Illness is concerned.

    “Veterans of any U.S. conflict can find their local VA medical center and covered healthcare benefits at va.gov”.

    Although upwards of one in three members of the military involved in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm remain chronically ill a full 25 years after the end of that war (approximately 200,000 of the 700,000 who were involved), the fact is that 80% of the disability claims submitted by these very sick Veterans continue to be denied by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

    This in spite of laws congress passed over a decade ago that lifted the burden of proof away from the Veteran who previously had to provide proof that he or she was exposed to toxic compounds during the war. That was pretty hard to do when the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency steadfastly refused to divulge what they knew about the toxins that are likely to blame for the illness.

    Here’s a hint. In 1994 then Senator Donald Riegle released “The Riegle Report” to Congress and the media. In it, Riegle and his investigative team uncovered irrefutable evidence that the United States Department of Commerce had during the 1980’s transfered a vast array of chemical and biological warfare agents to Iraq in order to assist Iraq in its war against Iran. Those weapons were used to great effect, killing thousands of Iranian soldiers by simply spraying them with these toxins from aircraft, very much akin to crop dusting.

    Riegle ended his report by strongly recommending a criminal investigation of the Reagan administration. Of course, much like the same sorts of charades we see today with respect to illegal arms trades in Libya that led to the murders of four brave Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, not one person involved is being prosecuted. Not even a well known Presidential candidate.

    Gulf War Illness? That’s a miniscule drop in the spitoon of the good ol boy network in our nation’s capitol.

    No wonder these people are terrified of a man like Donald Trump. He’s just the sort of politically incorrect loudmouth that may actually tell a bit of truth once he opens the holy grail of ledgers that contain all of Washington’s dirty laundry.

    Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful)
    David K. Winnett, Jr.
    Captain, USMC (Ret.)

  2. gulfwarillness1@gmail.com'

    Dr. Ronald Grewenow statement is typical of the mentality which prevails among the VA, which is to deny true scientific research data and to push the VA agenda that GWI is caused by mental condition. There have been several research studies done that have proven beyond reasonable doubt that GWI is physical and there is evidence of the damage it is causing to us veterans.

    Dr. Ronald Grewenow should not be commenting on a subject matter that he is either ignorant of or is deliberately trying to cover-up facts. Which would indicate criminal intent.

    Thank you,
    Glenn Stewart
    US Army & NG retired
    Gulf War Illness / aka CMI casualty & advocate
    E-mail: gulfwarillness1@gmail.com
    Webpage: https://plus.google.com/110321549524619427432/posts
    YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/GulfWarIllness1

  3. sleeper692@gmail.com'

    Consider this an open letter to Dr. Grewenow as well as my response to the article above.

    I am an ill Gulf War Veteran and patient at the Portland VA Medical Center. I have been under the care of Portland VA doctors for over five years. While I have received excellent care for acute problems, my long term care is lacking to say the least.

    After reading this article and considering the statements of Dr. Grewenow, it is no wonder that I can’t get proper care at any of the Portland VA Medical facilities. Dr. Grewenow performed my last Gulf War Registry exam and implied that he did not believe Gulf War Illness (GWI) was real. This fact alone makes him unqualified to provide a proper Gulf War Registry exam. Now he’s the temporary head of the Portland VA Medical Center! Presenting his public opinion that GWI is primarily a mental condition shows his complete ignorance of all the research and opinions that define the reality of GWI by the VA, DoD and multiple private research entities.

    In my experience I have found that there is not a single doctor, nurse, technician, janitor or administrator in the entire Portland VA Medical system that not only understands the GWI medical model, there is not one that believes it is even a real disease! If I am wrong, please prove me as such. Go ahead, make my day!

    I have been treated for symptoms of (undiagnosed) GWI for years to no avail and often with adverse reactions and negative consequences. I have been prescribed medications that are contraindicated (and possibly fatal) in ill Gulf War Veterans not to mention clearly contraindicated by even a precursory review of my medical records. The doctors at this facility have ridiculed me, told me that I am lying and malingering, that my disabilities are somehow MY fault and, consistently, tell me that my medical problems are based in or exacerbated by my mental condition (depression and PTSD) which are unadulterated lies. Despite the lack of knowledge and the repeated accusations of clinical doctors that there is “nothing wrong” with me I am rated as totally disabled by VA and SSA. One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing apparently. This has to be the largest demonstration of incompetence and willful neglect by a medical facility that I have ever personally seen.

    Until the VA Administration takes the bold and long overdue move to actively educate the doctors that are caring for ill Gulf War Veterans this glaring failure of the VA’s duty to care for veterans will continue.

    I have taken my case to the Portland VAMC’s former director and Chief of Staff. I have provided them with a plethora of research and publications, all coming from VA and DoD funded studies, yet not a single thing has changed. I’ve submitted Congressional inquiries that produced a nice letter from the former director vowing to educate the hospitals doctors and to change the culture surrounding GWI. That letter, over 18 months old now, is proving the former directors brazen willingness to lie to Senator Wyden’s office. I can’t imagine Senator Wyden is going to sit back and ignore this once his office is aware of this criminal act*.

    I have to ask you, Dr. Grewenow, if I came into your hospital with a broken bone, would you send me to a cardiologist? Reasonable conjecture says you would likely send me to the ER with follow up by an orthopaedist. If I had Multiple Sclerosis, would you have my care come from a doctor that didn’t have any knowledge of MS? If I had cancer would you send me to a doctor that didn’t believe cancer was real? If I came in with a case of West Nile Virus, would you have me seen by a doctor who believes that all my symptoms were in my head?

    If all the answers to the questions in the last paragraph are “no,” then why do I keep getting seen by doctors that know NOTHING of the symptomology, causal exposures, potential treatments or medical models of Gulf War Illness (which includes you, Dr. Grewenow!)? Why is that, when I go to a VA doctor, I am the one in the room with more medical knowledge about my illness? Why is it that I have knowledge about GWI medical models, research, potential treatments and causality and there is not a single doctor in the Portland VA medical community that does? Why am I continually treated like a pariah instead of getting the proper, compassionate and knowledgeable care that I deserve after putting my life on the line for my country? If GWI is primarily a mental health issue, why haven’t over five years of psycho and pharmacotherapy provided me any relief? Why are all my symptoms measurably increasing with time instead of improving after all the time and money you have spent on mental health care for me? Why do you think that the neuralgic pain I experience that can be so intense that it makes me vomit and keeps me awake through the night is caused by stress? Why do you think that the migraines I get that would drop a horse are a manifestation of stress from events 25 years ago? Why is it that a doctor at Georgetown University could properly define and tell me more about my disease and potential treatments after only three days of testing yet an entire hospital of VA doctors can’t diagnose my illness in over five years of care and testing?

    WHY????

    What on this earth leads you to believe that “war-time stress is the most likely cause” of GWI in spite of the millions upon millions of dollars of VA and DoD funded research and subsequent publications that prove you 100 percent wrong? How can you be appointed as the director of a VA medical facility when you obviously lack the proper knowledge to provide the proper care to ALL the veterans you are charged to attend?

    This lack of proper care is not only ignorant and incompetent, it is entirely criminal. If this was a civilian hospital, the doctors who have been mistreating me would be sanctioned and possibly lose their licenses. That won’t happen in the poisoned, willfully ignorant culture that surrounds GWI in this hospital and, I can only surmise, other VA medical facilities around the country.

    It is clear to me now that my efforts with this medical facility have been fruitless. Dr. Grewenow’s comments indicate that any further efforts on my part alone are going to go unheeded.

    Dr. Grewenow, if I were you I would start preparing a response to Congressional and VA Inspector General inquiries that are coming your way. I am also prepared to sue the Portland VA in Federal court for punitive and compensatory damages for deliberate malpractice and breach of duty that are easily provable should this situation continue without meaningful progress.

    It is sad that I have to deal with the daily disabling pain, fatigue, confusion, memory loss and many other “bonus” symptoms that come with GWI and still muster the strength and will to speak up on my own behalf in an effort to fix a problem within an agency that resists my efforts with tenacity. Is it not enough that my body is punishing me for going to war in a toxic environment? How can an agency charged with caring for veterans along with an entire staff of doctors who should be sympathetic and knowledgeable yet are neither? When the head of the rheumatology department told me to my face that “we don’t even know if GWI is real!” I was taken aback. What makes someone in such a position of authority, who has pursued a career dedicated to the wellness of other human beings after a lengthy and costly education, who arguably should be an intelligent, open and compassionate person turn into a complete idiot when faced with caring for an ill Gulf War veteran?

    The blatant, immoral mistreatment and lack of care that I have experienced at the hands of VA doctors is unconscionable. Dr. Grewenow, if the thought of one of your patients being ridiculed, mistreated and misdiagnosed doesn’t bother you, I will have to take the steps to see that it does.

    Any questions, sir?

    Peter Greene
    Gulf War Veteran
    US Army, 100% disabled
    Email: nationalgulfwarvets@gmail.com

    *U.S. Code › Title 18 › Part I › Chapter 47 › § 1001, Statements or entries generally, which defines false statements, etc and provides for fines and up to five years in prison for making false, fictitious or fraudulent statements to any investigation conducted pursuant to the authority of any office of Congress among other crime definitions and penalties.

  4. Montekillvo@gmail.com'
    John J. Montecalvo

    Prolonged Stress was not that the saying the V.A. and D.O.D. Was using in the early and mid ninteys when tens of thousands Desert Storm Veterans were reporting illnesses,?I can say the Anthrax and Botulism shots have given me and others prolong stress for a lifetime, I got woppledwhen they were administrative to me and 1lt. In my unit fell to the ground and threw up immediately on his set of shots.Know testing is available for nerve agent exposure? Why did the Chemical Alarms go off repeatedly when the Scud missles were broken up above us in Dharan, by the Patriot missles?Why does Dr. Bach of the Minneapolis,Minnesota V.A. in his report states the underline problem of Gulf War Veterans is Cronic Inflammation, which has been found in my in tire body? I was told by the youngstown V.A. that I was to young for Social Security Disability , and that I would not receive it and they made sure of it, by lying about me in there notes!

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