Defense Health Care: Occupational and Environmental Health Surveillance Conducted During Deployments Needs Improvement
Following the 1991 Persian Gulf War, research and investigations into the causes of servicemembers' unexplained illnesses were hampered by a lack of servicemember health and deployment data, including inadequate occupational and environmental exposure data. In 1997, the Department of Defense (DOD) developed a militarywide health surveillance framework that includes occupational and environmental health surveillance (OEHS)--the regular collection and reporting of occupational and environmental health hazard data by the military services. This testimony is based on GAO's report, entitled Defense Health Care: Improvements Needed in Occupational and Environmental Health Surveillance during Deployment to Address Immediate and Long-term Heath Issues (GAO-05-632). The testimony presents findings about how the deployed military services have implemented DOD's policies for collecting and reporting OEHS data for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and the efforts under way to use OEHS reports to address both immediate and long-term health issues of servicemembers deployed in support of OIF.