Gulf War Illnesses:

Research, Clinical Monitoring, and Medical Surveillance

T-NSIAD-98-88: Published: Feb 5, 1998. Publicly Released: Feb 5, 1998.

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David R. Warren
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GAO discussed two of its recent reports on health care issues of military personnel deployed for military operations overseas, focusing on the: (1) adequacy of the mechanisms used by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to monitor the quality, appropriateness, and effectiveness of Gulf War veterans' care and to follow up on their clinical progress over time; (2) government's research strategy for studying Gulf War veterans' illnesses and the methodological problems posed in its studies; (3) consistency of key officials conclusions with available data on the causes of the Gulf War veterans' illnesses; and (4) extent to which DOD's efforts for Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia were successful in overcoming the medical surveillance problems encountered during the Gulf War.

GAO noted that: (1) in it's report on Gulf War veterans' illnesses, GAO noted that while DOD and VA had provided care to eligible Gulf War veterans, they had no system for following up on their health to determine the effectiveness of their care after initial treatment; (2) also, because of methodological problems and incomplete medical records on the veterans, research has not come close to providing conclusive answers on the causes of the illnesses; (3) given the data needed versus what is available, which is primarily anecdotal, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to determine the causes of the illnesses; (4) the support for some official conclusions regarding stress, leishmaniasis, and exposure to chemical agents were weak or subject to other interpretations; and (5) regarding GAO's report on the medical surveillance of servicemembers deployed in Bosnia, while GAO found that DOD had improved its capability to monitor and assess the effects of deployments on servicemembers' health since the Gulf War, certain problems remained: (a) the database containing deployment information was inaccurate; (b) not all troops received postdeployment medical assessments; and (c) many of the medical records GAO reviewed were incomplete.

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