HOUSE COMMITTEE ON Veterans AFFAIRS
PRESENTATION BY CHARLES W. KELLEY
December 6th 2005
Gulf War and EDGEWOOD ARSENAL TESTING Testimony
N. Gale Reid, USAF, Ret (E-5)
19 Mimosa Dr
Montgomery, AL 36109
Members of Congress:
My name is N. Gale Reid, Air Force, Retired, E-5. I am a veteran of the Gulf War in 1991. I worked as an aerovac medic assigned to a Mobile Aeromedical Staging Facility (MASF) near Al Jubayl, Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. Our mission was to transport and triage casualties for care to either the nearest surgical facility (Fleet Hospital 5) or back to facilities behind lines, to Europe, or to the US.
I spent nearly 13 years in the military in the Reserve and Guard forces, while simultaneously working Federal Civil Service. I was activated to the Gulf War in 1991. I was in prime condition (health wise) before my deployment, but soon spiraled downward upon my return. My declining health from exposures in the Gulf War caused me to lose my jobs and my marriage. I was working at a VA facility in my civilian job before my health gave out completely in 1994, after collapsing on the PT field during an annual run in my Reserve unit. I had never failed a PT course nor was ever "out-of-regulation" during my entire career up until that time. I encountered blatant ridicule and attempted reprimand from my own supervisor at the VA where I was working while trying to obtain physical and mental evaluations for my exposures and conditions. Fortunately, for me, there were some good folks working there in positions of authority who helped me, but I can tell you first-hand there are some very ignorant and uncaring people working there as well. I'm afraid many (if not, most) of my fellow veterans are still encountering the same bad treatment and inadequate evaluations I did just over ten years ago.
Some can give thanks that there weren't many casualties during the war, but that depends on who you talk to and where they were. Sadly, DoD and the media portrayed it as a small, insignificant war with tolerable losses. It took years for DoD to even admit we were exposed to anything after the bombing of Khamisiyah. Then when it did, they, the CIA, and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) played down the effects of environmental toxins and bad vaccines on our soldiers before even researching all the resources available to them (i.e. private research).
The IOM still holds closed-door meetings, accounting to no one what reports they use for their findings used in advising the VA on how to examine and treat veterans who have been exposed to environmental toxins and bad lots of vaccines (mainly anthrax). I find it utterly repulsive that the IOM makes blind decisions regarding the healthcare of Gulf War Veterans based on sanitized information from DoD, then sells their findings online as well: example http://books.nap.edu/catalog/10628.html
I represent just one of thousands of sick Gulf War Veterans who have been forced into physical and financial hardship just trying to prove my conditions were caused by the exposures from the war. I've watched how the VA criteria for service-connection has slowly changed over the years as more conditions have been added and recognized as a result of toxic exposures. Multiple Sclerosis is just one of several more conditions that need expanded research and recognition as a service-connected condition, in light of doctors' inability to "rule it out.” Normally, a doctor is required to "rule out” conditions that may be affecting a patient, however, the IOM is ruling out MS and other conditions such as Parkinson's Disease, brain cancer, and heart disease for service-connection in Gulf War Veterans without even considering the research available in the private peer-reviews because DoD has dictated to them and the medical community how to do their own business.
Gulf War Veterans have followed the research and reports of exposures and their effects on troops long before the IOM was asked to do "peer reviews" for these conditions in 1998. Initial reports from the CIA of exposures were questionable at best when the CIA reported they obtained their information from "foreign sources and DoD" in the 1995 Shays Congressional Hearings. As Christopher Shays told the agent from the CIA, 'it was the most unintelligent intelligence report he had ever seen'. Unfortunately, the information in those initial reports were (and still are being) used in recent research because there was no one challenging their data and sources at the time. Information on air particulate matter wasn’t even gathered until FIVE MONTHS AFTER the soldiers were exposed to the smoke from the oil well fires. Since then, the information on those reports regarding the effects of the fires have changed on numerous occasions, with different plots of how the plumes of smoke blanketed the area and the number of troops exposed.
(Example: http://www.iom.edu/file.asp?id=8896 and http://www.iom.edu/file.asp?id=8893 )
The IOM even admits to having "scant information" on the effects of these exposures on Gulf War Veterans, however the Gulf War and Health Staff refuses to look at the 2004 RAC Report which documents the critical information on exposures needed to consider the effects on the soldiers who were exposed:
"Because scant information exists on actual exposure levels experienced by individual service members -- a critical factor when assessing health effects -- the committee could not draw specific conclusions about Gulf War veterans' chances of developing lung cancer or any other health problems as a result of exposures. No systematic monitoring of air contamination from oil-well fires was conducted in the Persian Gulf region until May 1991, and this monitoring did not measure levels of contamination produced by other combustion sources, such as heaters or engines. Moreover, no data are available that would allow comparisons between levels of exposure to air contaminants during the Gulf War and exposures to similar contaminants in civilian occupational and environmental settings."
It appears to me the IOM will do only what they are "tasked" to do-- no more, no less; and they make no promises as to whether they will do anything else:
"While the committee might have that information as background it is not part of the committee's task."
"The committee might recommend approaches for studies that will provide answers about the health of current Gulf War veterans, as well as for those involved in future deployments."
Someone needs to review their "statement of task" to include something more definitive and productive in its objectives and goals! How about using the information it has from the RAC in achieving a more complete review/study of "deployment-related illnesses among Gulf War veterans that might not be fully appreciated"?
None of these people at IOM have never had to personally navigate the treatment and claims maze, so they have no appreciation of what the impact is on the veterans it serves when facts are ignored, resulting in incomplete and inaccurate evaluations. Perhaps, if they had to be exposed to the toxic environments we were, then to return to a government and medical community for treatment that denied they were exposed to anything, and then merely pointed them in the direction of MHC (Mental Health Clinic), instead of examining them for neurological effects... They MIGHT be more inclined to study the facts a little deeper!
Meanwhile, sick veterans continue to seek help in their care and claims at VA where healthcare providers know little-to-nothing in how to refer the veteran for thorough examinations of their symptoms and conditions (because of a lack of reviews and reports from IOM) as a result of their exposures, or document their records accurately for smooth claims process. When VA healthcare providers have little guidance in examining and treating Gulf War Veterans, they cannot document records adequately and the veteran has nothing in his/her records to submit for favorable claims awards. When medical records are void of documentation, the veteran is met with certain denial of adequate care and benefits.
Healthcare providers can help veterans only if and when they have been given complete information from those who advise the VA (the IOM). This information must contain ALL data that could lead to a better understanding of the effects of multiple exposures to a toxic environment. If the IOM concedes that it has insufficient information report on its findings of the Gulf War exposures, it can only be seen as irresponsible if the IOM does not ask for and seek more information in its peer reviews. The RAC has handed them the critical information needed in making a more comprehensive and complete review of more recent and accurate information on those exposures and the IOM has chosen to ignore this without even considering the consequences of their actions on the veterans depending on their findings.
Monetary benefits are only half of the concern when it comes to advising the VA with peer reviews that are current, complete, and accurate. More often than not, veterans are evaluated as having PTSD, depression, or other mental disorders when neurological effects of toxic exposures are ignored. This can only be summed up as “malpractice” when more diagnostic testing is indicated and isn’t included in the healthcare protocol to rule out the possibilities of brain damage from environmental exposures.
Although the VA Policy manual for Gulf War Vets is put out by the Environmental Agents Service, few healthcare providers even know the EAS exists! In fact, even though every VA is mandated to have this office and service, I found none existed in Alabama until recent weeks when I asked to have a couple of other of my conditions evaluated by the EAS here in Montgomery.
Because it is easier to treat and diagnose veterans for PTSD and other mental conditions, and because there is little recognized research and reports to guide healthcare providers, the neurological and physiological effects of toxic environmental exposures (to include unsafe vaccines) are neglected, thus jeopardizing Gulf War Veterans' already fragile health conditions.
If anyone is listening and cares, I plead with you to "do the right thing" by the veterans who have served bravely and faithfully when their country called. Quit forcing them into poverty and worsening health because their conditions haven't been thoroughly considered for service-connection or research by the IOM and VA. Expand the research, resources, and care that is desperately needed in order to adequately treat and care for the soldiers who have already served and those now serving in toxic environments.
N. Gale Reid
19 Mimosa Dr
Montgomery, AL 36109
EDGEWOOD ARSENAL TESTING
Edgewood Test Veterans - we are a group of men who were used in chemical weapons and drug research by the US Army and the CIA from 1955 thru 1975 at Edgewood Arsenal Maryland.
The Institute of Medicine MUFA unit issued a report in March 2003 by Doctor William Page, which stated; the only conclusion he could make after the data was gathered in FY 2000, by a private company from Silver Springs Maryland. The report concluded that the only long-term health problems that the veterans exposed to Sarin showed were a higher rate of brain tumors and sleep disorders.
I would like to point out that a January 1994 report from the National Institute of Health,
Toxicity of the Organophosphate Chemical Warfare Agents GA, GB, and VX: Implicit that shows that long-term health effects include delayed onset cardiac problems. Why was this report overlooked in Dr Page's research?
I would also like to point out the perceived flaws in the March 2003 report that I see, they never addressed why they could not locate 3098 men using VA, IRS and Social Security records. The previous report in 1985 showed a total of 385 men that were deceased, but by 2000, just 15 years later the death toll appears to multiply drastically to 3098 men.
The report does not explain what or why these men died prematurely before the age of 65.
The 1985 report shows that a high percentage of men died from cardiac problems in the age range of 40-45, a few died in combat in Vietnam, but approximately half the deaths were from heart disease.
The March 2003 report did not even address pulmonary, gastrointestinal and neurological or cardiac problems. Yet, all previous studies of chemical weapon exposure show that these areas of health are affected by the exposure. There is a 1975 report published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, written by a Doctor Wilhelm Lohs that was done on the Wermacht soldiers of WW2. The German government paid these men disability payments and medical treatment until their deaths. This is the web address for the report http://projects.sipri.org/cbw/research/cw-delayed.pdf
There are very few chemical weapons research papers available, as most countries did not expose their own citizens serving in the military to experiments for research.
In October 2003 the VA released a manual for Chemical, Biological and Radiological Weapons exposures, many of the symptoms listed on pages 17,18 and 19 list the known medical problems caused by exposure to chemical weapons, are the symptoms complained about by the Gulf War Veterans. Since all CW's are based on insecticides, and there were many exposures to flea collars, misting units in the base camps, cans of DDT, many other types of bug spray bought in the are of operations and many of them do not conform to American standards for exposure, the symptoms seem to have a clear link to all of the above.
Why is the DOD/Army failing to release the names of the veterans who were used in the test from 1955 thru 1975 after 30 years since the end of the tests? Is it the fact that many of these veterans suffer disabilities resulting from the exposures to CW's and if the service connect these 7120 men, then they are opening the door to the Gulf War vets to be service connected for similar health conditions?
I realize the numbers are ugly at face value, of the 7120 men used at Edgewood 40% are dead before age 65, and 54% of the 4022 survivors are in very poor or totally disabling health, approximately 2200 men. The cost of service connecting 7120 men is miniscule, compared to opening the door for 100-200,000 veterans, with disability rates as these for pulmonary, cardiac, and gastrointestinal problems could and would into unknown billions of dollars of liability for the government.
If you are going to give a war, and expect men and women to volunteer, then when they are hurt or suffer damages the government should be willing to accept responsibility for the damages caused by that action. Not to do incomplete health studies and refuse to address known medical issues.
These men and women served honorably and they deserve honorable treatment from their government, not to give it will seriously affect this nations ability to field a complete fighting force in the future.
When new generations of Americans realize that their government does not care about them, who will volunteer?
Michael G Bailey
2815 Shadblow Lane #1
West Columbia SC 29170
I am an army veteran who enlisted in October 1973, I was at Edgewood for the tests from June 25 thru 22 August 1974, and I served on active duty until September 1982 when I left the service as a Staff Sergeant. I re-enlisted in the Georgia Army National Guard in September 1988 and asked for a transfer to the 48th Brigade when they were activated for duty in the Gulf War, I was deployed to Oman, Khasab Air Force Base on the Persian Gulf. I suffered a series of TIA's and a stroke within 12 months of discharge, at the age of 36. In February 1994 I suffered the first of 7 heart attacks, in February 1997 I underwent triple bypass surgery at the age of 41, I have since been disabled by SSD for heart disease, COPD, PTSD, skin abnormalities that the VA doctors cannot diagnose after biopsies, emphysema and sexual dysfunction, all of them are listed in the VA manual as being caused by exposure to Chemical Weapons.
The VA has so far denied all claims expect for PTSD since I had proof that 7 fellow soldiers beat me unconscious and robbed me in Fort Wainwright Alaska in Feb 1975, 4 of them were sentenced to Leavenworth Prison after general court martial. They refuse to address the medical problems related to Edgewood Arsenal. I still have appeals pending; I am in my 4th year of dealing with the VA. I had ignored it until I became totally disabled at age 45, I didn’t want anything from the government. I had a decent job at the Post Office until my life totally disintegrated in May 2000.